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The Sphere of Light | Hever Castle

Taking place in the historically relevant grounds of Hever Castle, ‘The Sphere of Light’ attempts to tell the hidden stories of the Boleyn family.

It’s understood that the venue had to be changed from where it was originally planned to be performed. However, this was not so last minute that they didn’t have time to adapt the direction of the play. Unfortunately, sitting back row of a seating plan, that’s not raked, did not work for me. I was also not the only person to be experiencing issues viewing.

Consistently through the entire piece, the cast were found to be kneeling or sitting so that they were partially or completely obscured. No considerations seemed to be made for the limitations of the location. This would have been less of an issue if the space was fully utilised and the cast moved around frequently. However, there were prolonged periods (of up to around 10 minutes) where the scene stayed stagnant in movement. This lead to the speech being required to carry the story, meaning there was a lack of theatrical impact.

As I didn’t have much to watch, it was similar to listening to an audio book. I could rarely witness the choices in facial expressions which is important in what is a relatively emotional story. Most of the story was told, rather than showed. Explicitly stating information, rather than demonstrating this through the acting, or implying through the script.

Furthermore, other direction included Julian Bird (playing George Boleyn) regularly facing away from the audience. At points, this may have been to express that George is shy or unconfident. Most notably, there was a seemingly key plot point that was presented during one of the extended periods of time where George had his back to the audience. I had become considerably disengaged and didn’t completely absorb this pivotal point, leading to my later confusion. To improve, it would have been better to utilise a range of facial expressions and body language to keep the piece visually interesting to watch. Also, the choice in intonations for this character perplexed me. I couldn’t always quite understand the tone he was trying to convey.

Similarly, there was a significant amount of offstage speech from Anne towards the end of the play. I wish they’d took advantage of the opportunity to exemplify Sarah O’Toole’s dramatic physical portrayal.

Later, one of the penultimate scenes is supposed to be sentimental between Anne and her mother. Although, I could not appreciate this as they were sitting throughout so was inevitably completely obscured from view. This was further impacted by being proceeded with an awkward scene change and a comic singalong. These lost any effect that could have been potentially took from the mother-daughter scene as there was limited time for the audience to sit and reflect on it.

The scenes that were strong and stood out had more physical interactions between the cast. This proved the need for this to be considered in the direction throughout. Also, not just in one to one conversations, but in the group scenes too.

The earlier mentioned singalong scenes were unnecessary, I think. Attempting to bring comic relief, but instead were awkward and cringey. I believe the intention may have been for them to help move the story along, and ensure the audience understood key character traits. However, they were so repetitive and boring, that they lacked impact. I was not inclined to join in and usually I’m the first to get involved in any kind of audience participation.

I would also like to make a note on the lighting decisions. There were points where some lamps would light up at the sides of the stage, but due to the partially open air venue and the daytime lighting, these did not have any effect. I only identified that they had turned on as I was looking in the direction of them when a cast member entered the stage.

Overall, the show was disappointing as the direction

repeatedly made the same mistakes. Many moments were spoiled due to not being able to appreciate and absorb all the talents onstage. Unfortunately, the show didn’t brighten the dull, rainy Saturday.


{AD | gifted} Written by Carly (@stageychaos)


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