The Accordion Shop, Buxton Opera House Young Company

Picture1Playwright and actor Cush Jumbo must be thrilled at the way her powerful, pertinent play The Accordion Shop has been portrayed by the Buxton Opera House Young Company.

The award-winning, rising star of theatre wrote the short play for the National Theatre Connections Festival, and the Buxton team chose it because they felt it offered them immense scope to be creative.

During four months of rehearsals they have transformed Cush’s well-structured play into 40 minutes of energetic drama packed with emotional intensity.

The young Derbyshire company beat off stiff competition to win a place in the annual drama festival, which is billed as the biggest youth festival on the planet.

It gives young people the experience of professional theatre making and they are expected to get involved with not just the acting, but also marketing, set design, lighting and stage management.

The play tells the story of Mr Ellody who had quietly kept his accordion shop on his local high street for generations. One day he stepped out of his door and witnessed hundreds of young people surging on to the street because they had all received the same text message which simply said ‘Riot. The Road. 7pm tonight.’

The voice of reason throughout the play was an old lady observing from a bench but tragically her efforts to calm the situation were not enough.

Cush based her pithy play on what happened during the 2011 riots in Lewisham where she was brought up and it is perfect material for the youth festival.

The Buxton company was directed by Craig Sanders, the Opera House learning and participation officer, and working alongside him as production designer was Zoe Day, a third year design student from Nottingham Trent University.

The design for the play was one of her final year projects and there is no doubting that she has a great future ahead of her, as the impressive set was a triumph.

It was dominated by a metal structure that was an abstract representation of the scaffolding and wire fences you might find in an inner city.

Mr Ellody’s shop was cocooned within it and the young actors passed through and over it as they moved about the stage.

The choice of the frame insightful and its simplicity allowed the fluidity of the fantastic choreography seen throughout the play to come to the fore.

Craig said the inspiration for his direction came from the work and style of Frantic Assembly, Motionhouse and Gecko and promised a visual treat. The audience was not disappointed.

It was a physically demanding piece and all the young actors stepped up to the mark and, by all accounts, out of their comfort zone. They should be rightly proud of their achievements.

The Accordion Shop can be seen at the Pavilion Arts Centre in Buxton until March 14 and then the company will be taking the piece to Salford’s Lowry Theatre as part of the festival on Friday May 8.

There are still tickets available this week so go to http://www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk for details. For more details about the National Theatre Connections Festival go to http://www.connections.nationaltheatre.org.uk

The are two casts performing on different nights and they are, Mr Ellody, Sam James and George Reavey; Old Lady, Eve Skitt and Carys Walters; policemen, Daniel Garland and Thomas Budenberg; teacher Lucas Parker and Erin Shires; news reporter, Katy Greenhalgh and Anna Langston; boys, Paul Kerry, Alfie Adey-Maguire and girls, Caitlin Kawalek, Daisy Rodgers, Frederique McCarthy and Beth Furness.

The lighting design was by Rachel Cleary; sound, Hannah Griffiths; AV, Matthew Cowan; stage manager, Joanne Eltringham; production manager, Guy Dunk and production assistants Ann Julians and Brian Gay.