Fallen Angel Theatre Company
and Simon James Collier
in association with the White Bear Theatre
"Hard-hitting prose makes
During the play we trace the journey of a female student, Fran Webster, towards transgression. The path Fran takes on her journey is essentially laid out by her parents, Jane and Gerald Webster, played by Kitty Martin and Adrian Francis. When their tangled web of co-dependency finally snaps, something is released in both mother and daughter and the plot speeds towards a rousingly chilling denoument.
Fran's transgression is not conventional. The story unfolds like a detective novel, with the picture only being completed fully by the end of the play. Billingham, inarguably talented, is at once very subtle in his portrayal, while also wishing to seem obvious. His characters appear as transparent spokespeople who embody a particular view the playwright wishes to convey with regard to arms deals, bullying, domestic violence, and the value of life, along with the importance of social status in contemporary society.
The way the actors play the madness inherent in the play is compelling...
the lyrical lines - hauntingly beautiful, or the extensive quotes from Shakespeare, which
Billingham throws in with Ffordian glee... The action which takes place in a black box
theatre in this production, with three wooden boxes on the set used as the main stage
props is where the magic mainly happens. The structures evoke a variety of exterior and
interior settings credibly and convincingly through the actors' professionalism in
handling them. If you like either a good detective story or hard-hitting theatre, you're
in for a treat - 'Gifted' provides a compelling mix of both.
At the centre of this play is a teenage girl called Fran. Shes intelligent and bound, everyone else expects, for Oxbridge entry. She is alienated from her father and what appear to be his values and, though she seems to have buddies, is she really a loner, caught up in the wonder of words?
With a mother dependent on anti-depressants and a father working for some kind of weapons company and strongly supporting the government going to war it is easy to see why a sensitive young idealist has relationship problems and her unease is increased when her best female friend declares a lesbian love for her.
There is no obvious motivation for her investing her caring and compassion in an aging Falklands War veteran, homeless and alcoholic, beyond the fact that he is vulnerable and there. Their strange relationship becomes the heart of this drama.
Matthew Ward is magnificent as the hard-drinking hobo, suspicious of the girl, scared what conclusions others would draw but building a bond with her and sharing his fears and his nightmares, haunted not by the surrendering Argies he shot but the spirits of lost comrades, until with her help and whisky he finds his quietus.
Is she an angel of charity or herself in need of psychiatric assistance? In scenes with her young black friends Chris (David Bonnick Jr.) and Mocha (Sapphire Joy) the dialogue seems entirely natural, at least as these young actors play it and Joy is just that as a performer, one to look out for if she is always this good.
There is a fascinating core to this play [it] gained an enthusiastic reception from its audience.
Review by Howard Loxton (2010), British Theatre Guide.
REVIEW FROM UK THEATRE NET
By Peter Billingham
This play is bleak. The daughter does not get on with her parents her friends think her a bit weird and secretly she meets up with a homeless, semi-deranged, God-fearing Falklands veteran. Yet from this world of bleakness, as good drama does, writer Peter Billingham has created a poetic tale of friendship and redemption.
Teenagers often do not see eye-to-eye with their parents but here you allow that Fran has reason. Her dad, Gerald, is a cold-hearted fish, treating his pill-swallowing wife abysmally. Hs is also an arms-dealer, one who sold weapons to a faction in Afghanistan that have now turned the guns on British troops (could the writer be alluding to our former dealings with the Taliban?).
Fran, though, is gifted. She is bound for Cambridge when she finishes school, something that differentiates her from Mocha, a reluctant learner at best, and Chris, a "typical" teenage boy who sees no value in education. Mocha and Chris go on a date together so Fran feels in need of a new friend. She goes for a walk in the woods, where she meets the tramp.
At this stage, apart from the fact that Fran has shown her parents a compromising video on her mobile (the story is not linear), the play seems to be following a conventional, fairy-tale pattern. Technologically up-to-date but conventional nonetheless. What gives it more are the numerous unexpected twists.
Individual scenes also greatly add. The teenagers bring an authentic tension-ridden dialogue, neither Mocha nor Chris saying what it is they want. Gerald ordering his wife to fetch him his shoes is something that will stay long in the memory.
The most powerful moments occur in Frans dealings with Norman, the homeless man. In a competent cast, actor Matthew Ward excels as the intense, mood-changing, neglected ex-soldier, who may or may not be telling the truth about his past experiences.
Credit must here be given to the sparse set, the use of boxes/cubes as minimalist props and the overall brisk pace. Director Chris Loveless you feel seems to know how to do bleak.
It took me time to recognize that this is a drama that skirts in and out of realism. At first I couldnt accept that Gerald could be quite so bad. He is not only the stereotypical villain arms dealer, ruthlessly ambitious, mean to his wife but he also appears genuinely unaware that he is anything but a good husband and father. The daughter of an arms dealer fortuitously meeting up with a soldier/victim of a previous war also seemed to verge on the pat. These qualms disappear though as the ninety-minute drama progresses.
One scene I felt could have been pruned was that involving Fran getting Mocha to read lines from Romeo and Juliet. There is an irony to this later on but here I believed too much information was given early on for the irony to be effective.
The Shakespeare play closest to Gifted is King Lear. Norman has done wrong in the past by his involvement in war and now he must suffer. But here he does not carry the body of his Cordelia. That is the final twist. And the way to find out the final twist is to go along. Well worth a look.
SPOONFED Review of Gifted
at White Bear Theatre
Peter Billingham Writer
Peter Billingham is a playwright and writer about
theatre. His playwriting credits include Married Blitz (Triangle
Theatre) which won Best Play at the 1992 International Theatre Festival in
Simon James Collier - Producer
Simon is CEO and Co-Founder of the noted Okai Collier Company and has produced and been the creative director on over fifty plays and musicals in London, throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. These include Blavatsky's Tower (Brockley Jack); Oliver Twist and Supernatural (Lion & Unicorn); Love Horse (White Bear); Collision (also directed Hackney Empire); Normal (Tobacco Factory, Bristol); Moonshadow (Time Out Critics Choice, White Bear); In His Hands (Hackney Empire/Oxford House); The Smilin State (Hackney Empire); Dracula (White Bear); Hedwig & The Angry Inch (K52 Theatre, Frankfurt); A Mother Speaks (Hackney Empire/New Wolsey, Ipswich/The Drum, Birmingham); The Dorchester (Jermyn Street); The Last Session (Hackney Empire); My Matisse (Jermyn Street); Shiny Happy People, with Victoria Wood (Hornchurch Theatre); Passion (Bridewell); A My Name Is Alice (Bridewell); Whole Lotta Shakin (Belgrade, Coventry); Great Balls Of Fire (Cambridge Theatre, West End); A Wrongful Execution (also directed Hackney Empire); Spooky Noises (also book & co lyrics Merlin Theatre); Countess & Cabbages (also book Merlin Theatre); Preacherosity (Jermyn Street); Purlie (nominated for 4 Whats On Stage Awards Bridewell); Elegies For Angels, Punks & Raging Queens (also Executive Producer on 2001 Cast Recording Bridewell, Globe Centre, Three Mills); La Vie En Rose (Kings Head, Towngate Theatre); Viva O Carnaval (also co book & lyrics Lilian Baylis Sadlers Wells) and Ruthless (winner of 5 Musical Stages awards Stratford Circus, London).
He has also written and published over twenty childrens books and novels including the Mr. Dark trilogy (optioned for an animated television series), the Towards the Light Fantastic Trilogy and the Norman series. Simon recently produced Dance With Me, his first feature film, which will be in cinemas in 2010 and is currently developing two other features for production in 2010/11. He also directed The Difference We Make, a documentary for Southern Housing Foundation as well as presenting celebrated events at St. Martin in the Fields (The Crusaid Requiem), Hackney Empire (Inspiration Innovation Integration Season) and St. Pauls Cathedral (Service of Thanksgiving, Remembrance & Hope for World AIDS Day).
Simon has created and project directed a series of award-nominated social investment projects that encourage youth creativity and literacy within the community, produced a number of documentaries and short films, and promoted various exhibitions focusing on the work of up and coming artists.
He has also been the Executive Director of Londons Bridewell Theatre, Artistic Consultant to Jermyn Street West End Studio Theatre and Chair, Trustee, Director and Consultant of numerous charities.
Productions for 2010 include: Tapestry (also directing); Gifted (White Bear); More Dead Black Children; Stairway to Heaven (Blue Elephant), The Remains of the Day (Union Theatre) and Still Life.
Adam Dechanel - Graphic Design/Illustration
Adam Dechanel is a prolific author, illustrator and graphic designer whose career spans nearly a decade. He has worked in television, film, books, short stories and graphic novels for many years. Throughout his wide-ranging career he has had a series of novels published including the high profile Superman: Tempered Steel. Adam is well known in the illustration field and has worked extensively with Warner Bros, DC Comics and The Walt Disney Company. He also exhibits his artwork in galleries around London, including the prestigious Old Truman Brewery. He is the co-creator of publishing label Okai Collier Kids that pioneered the CDbook entertainment format. His concept for graphic novel anthologies Vanston Place: The Secret Adventures & The Timber Wharves Gang were short listed for a SNAC award.
In theatre Adam has worked on productions including Collision, Passion, A My Name Is Alice, My Matisse, In His Hands, The Smilin State, The Sister Wendy Musical, The Dorchester, A Mother Speaks and Dracula, and also spearheaded the marketing campaign for the critically acclaimed European premieres of Purlie and Preacherosity. He also wrote A Wrongful Execution, which featured as a reading for the acclaimed Inspiration, Innovation and Integration Season.
Fallen Angel Theatre Company - Producer
Fallen Angel was established in 2007 and focuses on new writing and innovative revivals of provocative and challenging works. Productions to date include Blavatsky's Tower (Brockley Jack), Normal (Tobacco Factory), Moonshadow (White Bear), Ray Collins Dies On Stage (Alma Theatre, Bristol), Dracula (White Bear) and The Custom of the Country (White Bear). All have received widespread critical acclaim.
Matt Hall - Sound Design
Matt started working in live music predominantly in the Jazz and Folk scene, working on anything from big band jazz to solo guitarists and everything in between. He then moved into the theatre world and was the resident Sound Designer and Deputy Chief Technician at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick for 3 years. He has recently moved from the North and now works in the busy Chichester Festival Theatres sound department. Recent sound design credits include: Blavatsky's Tower, Collision, A Chorus of Disapproval, Blackbird, Chris Dugdales Magic & Mindreading, The Maid of Buttermere, A Christmas Carol, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Bogus Woman, The Lady in the Van, The Lonesome West, The Importance of Being Earnest, In Extremis, The Caretaker, Our Countrys Good, The Recruiting Officer, The Borrowers, Jordan, Taking Steps, Days of Wine and Roses, Of Mice and Men, On Golden Pond.
Chris Lince - Lighting Design
As lighting designer, Chris has most recently lit Blavatsky's Tower and Compression at the Brockley Jack. He has worked extensively with director Benet Catty on productions of Howie the Rookie, Edmond, Speed-the-Plow, Popcorn, Sweet Charity and Sweeney Todd. He has been award-winning comedian Brendon Burns technical director for five years, as well as designing the lighting for numerous comedy shows in Edinburgh and London. He is regularly based at the Cockpit Theatre, coordinating their long-running scratch night, Theatre in the Pound. As a director, Chriss Edinburgh Fringe production of Emily Junipers Restitution transferred to Theatre 503, and his more recent Edinburgh production of Brett Goldsteins Success Story will be revived later in 2010. He is also a writer and graphic designer.
Chris Loveless - Director/Producer
Chris trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (2007). He is Artistic
Director of Fallen Angel Theatre Company and an associate director of the White Bear
Theatre and Stepping Out Theatre Company.
Omar F. Okai Movement Direction
Omar F. Okai is an award-winning director and
choreographer of over forty musicals and plays, productions of which were not only in
He is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the noted
Okai Collier Company, which has gained an excellent reputation for encouraging new writing
and staging cross-cultural productions. Okai also co-produced four Off-West End Studio
productions for directors including Lynda Baron (The
Dorchester) and Ruth Carney (My Matisse),
along with Rowland Lees acclaimed Crusaid
Requiem at St. Martin in the Fields and the HIV/AIDS
Service of Remembrance at
Christina Pomeroy - Costume
Chris has worked as Costume Designer on a number of Okai Collier Company productions including Elegies (Bridewell); Purlie (Bridewell, nominated for 4 Whats On Stage awards); Ruthless (Stratford Circus, winner of 5 Musical Stages awards); Preacherosity and The Dorchester (both at Jermyn Street West End Studio Theatre); The Sister Wendy Musical, The Smilin State, Collision and In His Hands (both Hackney Empire) and Dracula (White Bear Theatre).
Amy Rycroft - Casting/Associate Producer
Casting credits for the English Theatre Frankfurt include; The Full Monty, Educating Rita, Hysteria, Hair, Gaslight, Death Trap, Laughing Wild, Nevelles Island, The Last Virgin, Blithe Spirit, RENT; Other theatre casting credits include; Blavatsky's Tower (Brockley Jack), A Day at the Racist (Finborough Theatre), The Tenants (Drill Hall), Ruth (New End Theatre, London) A Wrongful Execution (Acorn Theatre, Hackney); Borrowed Time (New End Theatre, London); Purlie (Bridewell Theatre); Passion (Bridewell Theatre). Music Video & Commercial casting credits include: Andre Rieu (Decca Records), Dreamboats & Petticoats 3 (Universal Music Op), Bingo Wings Music Video (MJNA Records).
Associate Producer and Producer credits include: Circus Agogo (New End Theatre); A Wrongful Execution (Acorn Theatre, Hackney); The Last Session (Acorn Theatre, Hackney); Bridewell Theatre Farewell Gala (Bridewell Theatre); Purlie (Bridewell Theatre). Production Assistant on Death of a Salesman (Lyric Theatre, London); The Countess (Criterion Theatre, London); I Am My Own Wife (Duke of York Theatre, London).
Renell Shaw - Music
London born lyricist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Renell Shaw has been uniquely placed between the genres of African-classical, soulful hip-hop, Jazz and world music. He is an innovative songwriter/producer working within the worlds of film, theatre, and dance and as a session musician.
As well as being involved in the creation and performance side of music his entrepreneurial skills have thrown him into the music business partaking in facilitation, events production and artist development/management.
Renell Shaw has performed at many prestigious venues including The Royal Festival Hall, Roundhouse, Jazz Café and The Barbican alongside respected musicians including Orphy Robinson, Soweto Kinch, Nitin Sawhney and The London Philharmonic Orchestra. He continues to thrive on the challenges of working on varied, eclectic and creative projects and remains committed to pushing the boundaries of his various art forms.
David Bonnick Jr - Chris
David trained at
Mountview School Of Dramatic Arts (BA Acting), graduating in 2008. Theatre includes Jack
in English Made Simple (The Pleasance), Man
& Passenger in Terrorism (Oval House),
Shamraev in The Seagull (
David aka Gambit Ace has an EP out, now online at www.myspace.com/gambitro, entitled So Sporadical and filled with lyrical skills and unique subject matters that the public can relate to.
Robert Dunbar - Alec Montgomery & Detective Inspector Cullen
Robert trained at the
Adrian Francis - Gerald Webster
Sapphire Joy - Mocha
Sapphire graduated from
Rose Bruford School of Speech and Drama in 2009 (BA Actor Musicianship). She plays a range
of instruments which include the alto sax, trombone, and clarinet. Her theatre credits
included Just Me Bell (TIE tour), Krunch (Bernie Arts Centre). Radio credits included
Kitty Martin - Jane Webster
Kitty trained at The
Drama Studio. Her theatre credits include: Mandy in Blame (Sphinx), Prioress in The Canterbury Tales and Iris in The Tempest/October Plenty (Lions
part/Shakespeares Globe), The Nemesis in Ken Campbells Extemporised Musical (Sticking Place), Agnes in Needle and Attracta in The Moth Hour (readings for Sphinx/Soho) Friar
Lawrence/Lady Capulet/Chorus in Romeo and Juliet
(Daylight Payers - International Tour), Dr Bright in Perpetua
(Fortunes Fool/503), Mother Bee in Marrige Between
Wit and Wisdome (Lions part), Edith Frank in Dreams
of Anne Frank (Shaw Theatre and No 1 Tour), Tudor
Consort (Shakespeares Globe), The Wife in The
Problem (Tristan Bates), Luciana in The Comedy
of Errors and Lisette/Lord in Infidelities (Impact),
Impro/Devised Season (Wigan Pier), Life Could Be A Dream (Frigidaires), Owl and the Pussycat (Cavalcade). Television
includes: Phoebe in Trevors World of Sport
(Hat Trick), Vet in
Matthew Ward -
Matthew trained at
Central School of Speech and Drama. His credits include: Danny in Night Must Fall, Jack Favell in Rebecca, Norman in The Norman Conquests, CSM Rivers in The Accrington Pals, Mike in Ruffian on the Stair, Archie Rice in The Entertainer, CS Lewis in Shadowlands, Jeff in Jeffrey Bernard, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Banquo in Macbeth, Caliban in The Tempest, Enobarbus in Anthony and Cleopatra, and the title role in Macbeth. He has also played
Rebecca Whitbread - Fran
Rebecca trained at The
Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her
acting credits include The Audition (Greenwich
Playhouse), Winter (tour with Forest Forge
Theatre Company), Pulse (short film directed by
Tommaso Paino), Goodbye (short film directed by
Richard Cosgrove) and various readings and short devising projects. She is in the process
of establishing her own theatre company with a fellow actor, which is based between