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“Fast-paced and inventive”

What a delicious adventure story this is and how well it adapts to the stage. Adam Penford’s fluid and inventive production of Louis Sachar’s novel is the first main stage family show outside of the panto season for a very long time.

The plot is multi-layered and labyrinthine. When a pair of sneakers apparently falls from the sky, an innocent boy is branded a thief and sent to dig holes with a bunch of misfits at a punishment camp in the Texan desert. The cruelly named Green Lake Camp is overseen by an evil Warden (played by Kacey Ainsworth with a wicked American twang), and her bullying henchman, Mr Sir. He’s one of several memorable characters played by Playhouse panto favourite, John Elkington.

Every piece of the set – from a cactus to a rowing-boat – is either flown in or whizzed in to the largely empty space. This creates a sense of magic. It’s also the means of clarifying and connecting the two parallel threads of a story and a set of characters over a century apart, seamlessly played by actors in multiple roles.

Chris Ashby plays the hapless boy, Stanley, with artlessness and conviction. There is clever and simple puppetry, some breath-holding moments (a descent of myriad lanterns as stars over a bare mountain), and a colourful and exuberant hoe-down. The show is physical and gleeful.

Yet it works on another level too, to confront bullying and racism and the unfairness of the things that happen to people. That’s the subtlety and triumph of the whole.

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Production Details
Production nameHoles
VenueNottingham Playhouse
StartsMarch 31, 2018
EndsApril 22, 2018
Running time2hrs 20mins
AuthorLouis Sachar
DirectorAdam Penford
Musical directorTom Attwood
Set designerSimon Kenny
Lighting designerPrema Mehta
Sound designerAdam P Mcready For Poetical Machines Ltd
Video designerDuncan Mclean
CastAmmar Duffus, Edward Harrison, Elizabeth Twells, Greg Lockett, Henry Mettle, John Elkington, Kacey Ainsworth Chris Ashby, Pepter Lunkuse, Safiyya Ingar
Company stage managerJane Eliot-Webb
Stage managerKathryn Bainbridge-Wilson, Vickki Maiden
VerdictA fast-paced and inventive family show that works on every level
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