Reviews

The media

King Lear
This production of the Bard’s dark, violent and bitter classic scaled the heights.

This sinister tale could not have been in more competent hands or staged in more appropriate surroundings.

In the title role Bob Murdock was creepily regal.

Roger Paine
Sussex Express

The Diary of Anne Frank
As Otto Frank, Annes father, Alan Lade displays dignity and compassion. Kimberley Payne, as Anne, captures the sense of girlish fun, teenage rebellion and blossoming womanhood. Outstanding moments are the ensemble playing during a celebration of the Jweish festival of Hanukkah. Be as moved by this production as few can ever fail to be when reading Anne's timeless diary.

Roger Paine
Sussex Express

Anne Boleyn
It was a coup by The Synergy Theatre to obtain permission to stage this new play by Howard Brenton.  Until last year it had only been performed by London’s Globe Theatre.  Synergy’s founder, David Parton, also directed and played a role, following in the footsteps of the one-time ubiquitous player-managers.

But Brenton’s play is neither a chip off the Shakespearean block nor a pastiche of television’s The Tudors.  Although you might be forgiven for thinking so.  Instead it is examination of a pivotal period in English history when French-educated Anne Boleyn becomes Henry VIII’s mistress, whilst he is still marred to Catherine of Aragon, and attempts to secure their divorce under the terms of the newly established Church of England.  For Anne’s lustful desires, for which she is labelled ‘harlot’, ‘witch’ and ‘demon’, and despite her success in changing the law of the land, she is eventually executed when Henry learns of her promiscuity and she fails to give him the son he craves.

Charlotte Tayler undertook the challenging role of Anne, one moment tender lover, the next scheming Protestant zealot determined to introduce a new bible translated by uncompromising William Tyndale (Chris Church).  Around her swirls Henry’s court, including Lady Jane Rochford (Kirrily Long), Anne’s impressive confidant, and the viciously Popish Cardinal Wolsey (Chris Whittle).  As scheming spymaster, Thomas Cromwell, Bob Murdock generated a shudder every time he appeared and Stewart Wiseman, as Henry VIII, played the impulsive, but far from lecherous, monarch.  The play also introduces a cross-dressing King James of Scotland which provided Alan Lade the opportunity to give a Billy Connolly-like performance full of pantomime panache.  

Seaford’s Clinton Centre, with its high vaulted ceiling and hardwood floor, somewhat marred the acoustics but this was a ground-breaking production, enhanced with sumptuous Tudor costumes, which provided compelling theatre at every level.  

Roger Paine
Eastbourne Herald

The History Boys
This multi-award winning play first performed at the National Theatre in 2004, and later made into a film, is, arguably, Alan Bennett’s masterpiece. The title has become synonymous with success.

So much so that it is a brave amateur group who takes on the challenge not only of entering such well-trodden territory but also of overcoming the difficulty of casting eleven male roles, eight of which are teenage boys. Unless you are The Synergy Theatre under director David Parton who, on their debut production at Seaford’s Clinton Centre, brought together a remarkable group of young actors to play the boys, and by whose natural street-wise mannerisms and casual gauche appearance made this production as near as dammit the real thing.  In the play this is the story of eight boys at a Sheffield grammar school who, having passed ‘A’ levels, are attempting entry into Oxbridge.  Yet as this is a Bennett play, it is not simply about intelligent hormone-charged young men using coarse, often extremely funny,  language to describe their sexual activities, but as much a thinly-disguised indictment of today’s flawed education system.

John Hamilton played the pompous Headmaster, obsessed with league tables and parental approbation; Alan Lade was Hector, the eccentric but hugely inspirational English teacher sidelined after unacceptable extra-curricular activities with the boys; Peter Linsdell, the youthful, tormented supply teacher, Irwin, full of political ideals; and Sue Shephard was History teacher Dorothy Lintott, left wondering “how depressing it can be teaching five centuries of male ineptitude”. The performance of the pupils never flagged, including spirited piano-playing from Scripps (Samuel Nunn), outrageous flirting by Dakin (Timothy Telford), and “small, Jewish, gay and living-in-Sheffield” Posner, a talented performance by fifteen-year old Owen Daughtery.

“Pass it on”, implores Hector in the final scene.  An appropriately fitting exhortation for this provocative and stimulating production.

Roger Paine

Othello
'Chris Rochester played a young vibrant Othello brilliantly....(Charlotte) Tayler's beautifully executed Desdemona managed to convey sweetness and humour .... with Darren Heather's wonderfully understated performance it is easy to see why Othello is taken in. Special mentions for Gareth Brighton, an utterly believeable and likeable Cassio, and Pamela Parry, a woman torn between her husband and closest friend.'

'The 12-strong cast took on a challenge which would test the most seasoned of actors... They triumphed.'

Hannah Russell
Sussex Express 28th November 2008

The Master Builder
'David Parton is making a name for himself with translations of plays from Norweigan. Parton has now created an outstanding production of Ibsen's The Master Builder both as director and translator.'

'It is some achievement to make Ibsen palatable without dumbing him down, but Synergy Theatre achieved this through an approach which dispensed with stereotypical notions of the playwright as a purveyor of unremitting gloom.'

'It was (Charlotte) Tayler who proved outstanding in a cast that did not contain a weak link.  Parton's translation was also impressive, proving accessible but free of any mannered attempts at idiom.'

'This production was brave, resourceful and an unqualified success.'

Jeremy Malies
Sussex Express 18th January 2008

'Charlotte Tayler is an actress to watch out for. Her sensitive portrayal of the hard suffering housewife Gina was a joy to watch. Her vocal control when she became irritated by her husband was immaculate, the character was well rounded and believable. She was a true example of how to perform Ibsen at its best.'

'But it was Beth Fitzpatrick's charming interpretation of the young girl Hedvig that got my attention. With a bit more confidence, she has potential to develop into a well rounded and exciting performer.'

Sascha Cooper
remotegoat.co.uk

The Importance of Being Earnest
It can be tricky to find a good venue in which to perform and, although Synergy only had the modest Main Hall at Priory School in Lewes, their attention to detail with the set, props and costumes meant you soon forgot you were simply in a school. From beautiful Victorian furniture, to potted plants, to Gwendolen’s extravagant hats; everything had been thought of.

Charlotte Tayler is such an asset to Synergy; she consistently produces impressive performances regardless of period or character and her portrayal of Miss Fairfax was no exception. Working with Darren Heather, whose acting I have admired for a couple of years now, as Jack/Earnest, the two were able to create a lot of humour.

Though it took him a little while to get going, Joseph Annette-Norman was brilliantly witty as Algernon. I was in hysterics when he and Worthing were discussing the superiority of muffins over teacakes, and I am sure we will be seeing more from him in the future. Fifteen year old Rhianna Colyer also shone in her role of Cecily Cardew.

Jo Trainor

Macbeth
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair” is not a quote from the weather forecast for this year’s summer. They are the words of the three witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s chronicle of regicide in eleventh century Scotland.   This Synergy Theatre production took everything the elements conspired to throw at it and provided a spirited performance which drew prolonged applause from the audience crouched under brollies and blankets.

With several of the cast playing two or more characters, including the witches (Charlotte Tayler, Louisa Adams and Tashi Barnett), it was a masterstroke of Synergy’s founder and director, David Parton, to cast them as giggling, mischievious girls who not only torment an hallucinating Macbeth but also introduce each scene with a time-honoured nursery rhyme, often with sinister connotations.  This linked childish spookiness with the plotting of the murderous deeds which form the essence of the play.  The flint walls of the former manor house provided an effective backdrop, and each member of the small cast gave a refreshing interpretation of the Bard’s timeless words.  

Not least Macbeth (Bob Murdock), a rugged and callous warlord tortured by his bloody deeds, and his scheming, villainous wife, Lady Macbeth (Sue Shephard).  Both were impressive performances from actors who never allowed their characters to overwhelm either the historical events or the supernatural overtones of the story. Not an easy task in ‘The Scottish Play’.

There were similar assured contributions from Banquo (Ian Clegg), Macduff (Joshua Spriggs), Malcolm (Darren Heather). Ross (Edward James Owain), Lennox (Joseph Annette-Norman), and  Donalbain (Peter Linsdell).   As the King, Duncan, the Porter, and the Doctor, Christopher Whittle brought authority, including comic timing, to each very different role.            

Macbeth is urged by a witch “be bloody, bold and resolute”, such words would not be out of place to describe this imaginative production. 

Roger Paine
Eastbourne Herald

The audience

'Very well done last night - I think it is a very powerful piece of theatre and you did a fabulous job.'

'What a show. Do you know what, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The acting, costumes, music. I was gripped form start to finish.'

'The audience recognised that they were seeing something special and this was reflected by the length of applause at the end.'   

'I must tell you both how much I enjoyed your excellent production of 'Anne Boleyn' last week - the acting was superb and the use of floor area, exposition of plot etc. were all outstanding.  Well done! '   

'What a triumph!'

'Written by Roger Paine (The Philadelphia Editor) it is the latest production of the small but perfectly formed Synergy Theatre Company. This is a fine production with convincing performances from all the cast, together with authentic costume and props.'

'I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed last night's performance at The Clinton Centre. What polished performances; we were enthralled. Who needs posh sets and other fripperies when you have such talented performers with a riveting script. We are very much looking forward to seeing the next production in Seaford in February. With many congratulations to you and all the actors involved. We wish you every success for the future.'  

'Well done on a fantastic performance of The History Boys last night! I so, so enjoyed it, and was gobsmacked at some of the young performances.  All the lads were perfectly cast, some seriously talented chaps there - wow!  The grown-ups were all superb too, in fact I couldn't fault it.'

'What a super evening at History Boys, what an amazingly talented group of boys, each one chosen with perfection. You must feel extremely proud of them all, and the rest of the cast as well........production was great and very clever use of the area that you had available, congratulations.'

'I think that the adults were of known ability to you, and they were as good as I am sure you knew they would be, but the youngsters were all a revelation. It seemed like a very credible classroom of schoolboys.  What a tremendous achievement of The Synergy Theatre to give such young actors such a gritty and challenging acting opportunity, and for them all to carry it off so, apparently, effortlessly.  Thank you to the whole company, including the crew!'  

'My admiration for the entire cast was quite genuine .... It was great to see an unfussy, unflashy production that really delivered the goods.  We were all (there were three in my 'party') impressed by the top notch acting. Anyway - to sum up - we loved the production and have sung its praises.'  

'For atmosphere, being in a real ‘rural’ setting was a great asset.  Branagh’s version used the usual tired film set with ‘plastic’ bushes.  ... your production right from the start brought out the humour so vividly and yet so tastefully, thereby contrasting with and highlighting the times of deep and almost harrowing emotion.  The whole production sparkled with life from beginning to end.'

'I'm writing to congratulate your Company on its splendid performance of The Master Builder in St. Mary's Church yesterday. My wife and I were completely enthralled. I had seen the play years ago, but certainly not better performed. I'd be grateful to receive details of your forthcoming projects. The Master Builder is certainly one of the best theatre performances I have seen in Eastbourne in the last dozen or so years.'

'I enjoyed The Glass Menagerie immensely. I thought Tom and Laura were outstanding. Everything hinges on Tom in terms of the narration and the notions of memory. His delivery and whole approach to the role were first-rate and his treatment of the linking speeches was so good he gave them the quality of a prose poem. Laura was equally impressive. I suspect she may indeed be an American since her accent was so consistent but maybe eastern seaboard rather than Mississippi delta (I didn't buy a programme!). The director also did a fine job in suggesting the ethereal quality of a memory play with nothing much more than a black backcloth. The casting was spot-on throughout.'

Superb performance of Shakespeare at Fredriksten Fortress

'Following positive references in the local press to The Synergy Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night at Fredriksten Fortress, I took my 9-year old daughter to see one of the theatre company’s performances. And I certainly didn’t regret it! It was a really great experience! We were met by a group of enthusiastic actors of ever-increasing ability. Everything was done in a professional manner and, bearing in mind that they had brought their costumes, scenery and props all the way from England, I must say that I was very impressed. I also liked the venue they had chosen. The backyard of the Commandant’s House, with its cobbles and rustic surroundings took us right back to Shakespeare’s era. All the players were, as I said, very accomplished, but there were some who really stood out. Both Bob Murdock and Ian Clegg in the respective roles of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, were very good – and very funny. Another one worthy of mention was Charlotte Tayler as Olivia. She really played the role to perfection! The director, David Parton, has really done a great job here. And all honour to him. I can, with my hand on my heart, say that this was easily the best theatrical production I have ever seen in Halden and, as a journalist covering cultural affairs, I have seen quite a few. As I understand it, The Synergy Theatre is coming back with a new production next year.  I really hope that the people of Halden will make themselves aware of when this is going to happen. I certainly shall.'

'I must admit that I went to this performance with a degree of scepticism. The fashion nowadays is to present Shakespeare in the most modern and surrealistic forms. My pleasure was thus all the greater when I saw Twelfth Night in the kind of atmosphere that the author himself would have wished. Naked, honest and presented by the most accomplished actors within their genre that I have ever seen in this town. The Commandant’s House in Fredriskten Fortress served as the Old Vic for me that evening. I take my hat off to them.'

'My girlfriend in Halden invited me to a theatre performance. Open-air. Light rain. The rain I hardly noticed and I didn’t feel that I was in the open-air, because this was a performance that was warming. I was so entranced that it was almost a pity there was an interval in the performance. I would have liked this to have been the premiere and not the last performance – because this was something I would have recommended to everyone I might meet on my way up here to the fortress.'

'Thank you so much for the wonderful performance of Hedda . Of course it is rather a grim play - extremely so even - but I was utterly enthralled by it.  The actors did brilliantly.  I particularly liked the performance of the judge, Alan Lade.  I thought his bearing and mix between arrogance and flirtiness was wonderful.  Please convey my congratulations to your staff. I hope to come and witness your excellent direction both at Kingston and at the Priory again.'

'Congratulations again on a fantastic production of Hedda Gabler. Charlotte (Tayler’s) performance has really stayed in my mind!'

'I have been thinking about the Play and am having to rethink my view of Ibsen, because there was so much humour, alongside the social commentary, that I was disconcerted last night.'

Not for the first time I left 'The Crucible' vowing that I would never see the Play again!  The fact that I was almost in tears at the end is testimony to the strength of both the plot and the cast, the second half last night being especially powerful.

Wowwww ,It was amazing, I am still living in the 17th Century !! ..and chanting " Lord Jesus think on me and purge away my sin .....!!
Thank you so much for a wonderful evening, it was all superb, Peter and I have been talking about it this morning, we would love to chat to you about it too ....such a fascinating script.
Please pass on sincere thanks congratulations to all in the Synergy Theatre, and hope all goes well for your last two Performances of The Crucible.   

I'm not much of a culture vulture but I've just been to see the The Crucible at Priory School and it was gripping from start to finish and rather scary that those sort of witch hunts actually went on. (Posting on lewes.co.uk)

I thought Macbeth was one of your best Shakespeare productions.

We really really enjoyed Macbeth at Southover Grange; with few props and scenery, you could concentrate on the speeches etc. Well done!