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The Silver Sword review at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – gets audience ’emotionally involved’

The Silver Sword ensemble at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Photo: Robert Day The Silver Sword ensemble at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Photo: Robert Day
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This musical adaptation of Ian Serraillier’s children’s classic has an uneasy resonance as it tracks the fates of four children crossing war-torn Europe in the hope of a better life. Brother and sisters Edek, Ruth and Bronia are searching for their parents, imprisoned by the Nazis, and their friend Jan is simply looking to survive.

If the parallels with Europe today aren’t already evident, writer/director Susie McKenna makes them crystal clear with characters discussing whether the youngsters are ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ and a final message that we all have a responsibility to help such people.

That’s not to say this is a work of didacticism, in fact the production is a constant zigzag of emotions. Puppeteer Scott Brooker’s imaginative creations add a touch of levity, as do some very witty songs by composer/musical director Steven Edis.

There is also plenty of pathos as the youngsters make and lose friends on their dangerous journey. In the small space of Coventry Belgrade’s B2 stage, the audience is too much a part of the drama not to feel emotionally involved.

There are strong performances across the cast, with many of the actor/musicians taking role after role. Rachel Flynn is inspiring as Ruth, a teenager determined to keep her family together whatever the hardships. Tom Mackley also has a firm handle on the wayward youngster Jan, softening his rough edges with an element of gentleness.

Lotte Collett’s design makes great use of old photographs of the battle-scarred cities of 1940s Europe which form a poignant backdrop to the drama.

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New musical adaptation of children’s classic has a strong message but also plenty of imagination and levity