Review: Little Angels - York Theatre Royal

For any new mum, adjusting to life with a newborn baby can be a stressful time but for Chloe, the lead character in Little Angels, it is just another challenge to add to her already difficult life.

Hannah Davies’ tale of relationships, domestic violence and hair dye is being presented by York Theatre Royal’s Young Actors Company in the theatre’s Studio.  If the term “Young Actors” gives you visions of school productions then please put all of those thoughts to the back of your mind.  This is a compelling and expertly crafted production that mixes light and shade brilliantly, weaving various deep and sometimes disturbing issues and dark humour with such skill that it never becomes overly heavy and is immensely enjoyable.

At the heart, this is a story of a young teenage Mum struggling to get to grips with her new life and the relationships she has with her family and friends. Increasingly Chloe is becoming separated from the world her friend inhabits – a world where the greatest issue is to choose between Ash Blonde or Spiced Conker hair dye. Her family are more dysfunctional than any Eastenders writer could imagine – a Mum serving time, a brother involved in petty crime and casual drugs, and a sister whose big city life with always be alien to her younger sibling and which will always mean that Chloe is seen as a distant second best.  The only stable influence is her Aunt who has provided a home and refuge.
How can she form a relationship with her own daughter when she is haunted by the ghosts of her past that prevent her from having a proper relationship with her family and friends?

All of the cast give excellent performances and work well as an ensemble.  Rebecca Beattie as Chloe has perfected the moody look that all parents of teenagers will be familiar with but also shows a more delicate side too.  Eleanor Rushton and Katie Waller offer great support in their roles as best friend Leanne and high flying sister Casey, whilst senior company members Beryl Nairn and Maggie Smales are superb as Auntie Anne and Mum Jean and add extra gravitas.

In a play dominated by women, it is interesting that the best role is reserved for the only male in the company. Chloe’s Brother, Michael, offers moments of laugh-out-loud humour but is also central to some of the most dramatic sequences of the play. Luke James grabs this gift of a part with both hands and is obviously relishing such a dynamic role, giving a standout performance and stealing the spotlight whenever on stage with his physical approach and wonderful timing.

The whole production is top drawer. Julian Ollive’s direction keeps the scenes moving on, never dragging us down in to depression or sentimentality, whilst Claire Browne’s set (complete with real grass) is a flexible canvas supplemented with extra rolled up flooring to facilitate smooth scene changes.  Sound too plays its part with pulsating music enhancing the contemporary feel of the show.

If this is the future of productions at the Theatre Royal then it is in safe hands.  Little Angels is a brilliant mix of challenging issues and entertainment and deserves to be well supported during its run.  I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of the members of this company in to the future – and I for one can’t wait to see what they do next.

Review by James Eaglesfield