Polka’s first full-length musical, a new piece aimed at 7-11 year olds, explores what sports day means for four primary school leavers.
A scene from Run! A Sports Day Musical at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon Photo: Piotr Kowalik
Stephanie Fearon offers a convincing portrayal of Ella as she reveals her insecurities about juggling life at a new school with caring for her invalid mother. Talented young sportsman Jermayne (Joseph Adelakun) wants to pursue his dreams despite his father wanting him to follow a proper career and Nancy (Katie Bernstein) is all bitchiness and bravura in an attempt to cover up her vulnerability, and Peter Dukes’ Richard wrestles with his classmates’ perception of him as clumsy and irritating.
All the performers give their all, often having to switch from one role to another in quick succession (Dukes is particularly impressive as he shifts from quirky pupil to personable PE teacher Mr Budge).
Unfortunately, though, the book and score are not yet good enough to produce a drama that flies off the page. The right themes are there - fear of growing up, lack of confidence, bullying, pushy parents etc - but the lacklustre production fails to properly engage those present. Audience members should be on the edge of their seats as the day’s sporting events come to a close, willing a victory for the team they have got to know, but no such interaction takes place.
There are some flashes of inspiration from director Adam Penfold and co-choreographer Emma Annetts, especially when Butler’s songs have a life-affirming theme, but the show needs a workout of its own before reaching its full potential.