The Glove Thief
Class Act Productions
The Parkway Theatre
02 November 2023
It was quite a pleasure to witness the local premiere of Beth Flintoff's 2017 play, The Glove Thief. To see Class Act Productions bring a play of this nature to the stage is testament to how far the company has travelled since its inception. Decked out in unbelievably lavish costumes (for which the wardrobe section requires commendation!), the cast clearly enjoyed the scope and spectacle of their latest production. The play itself is only receiving a single performance this week and if you missed it, you missed out. It was a treat to see so many young performers being given a chance to shine by director Amanda Pearce.
Beth Flintoff's play was first performed in 2017 as part of Platform, an initiative to address gender imbalance in theatre by providing large cast plays for predominantly female performers. As with most local youth ensembles, the vast majority of Class Act's students are female. Shows like The Glove Thief really give them a chance to shine.
This story takes place in 1569, mostly within Tutbury Castle, home to George and Bess Talbot the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury. Their home has been selected as the prison for Mary, Queen of Scots at the order of Elizabeth I. Within her prison walls, Mary and her ladies in waiting, sew a series of embroideries that survive to this day. The action really begins when a young woman named Rose is accused of stealing the gloves of the Countess in a plot to ensnare her in service at the castle. Rose proves to be a plucky and resourceful servant and an effective spy on behalf of the reigning monarch. She befriends Mary and her courtiers and is taken into their confidence, from there the action ensues.
A number of roles are shared within the production, where one actress plays the physical character and another, the inner voice of the character drifting in and out of the action like a ghostly apparition narrating the real thoughts and feelings of the character. Bess, the Countess is played with marvellous authority by Rylicia McDonald and her narrator by Imogen Taylor. Mary, Queen of Scots is regally embodied by Tilly Burnett and narrated by Emelia Roberts.
For me the most effective pairing however was that of Rose, the glove thief of the title. Jazz Hibbard plays the physical character and Isabel Hibbard her narrator. The pair succeed in persuading the audience that they are indeed the same character. Rose is a bold girl who grabs life's opportunities when they arise with real commitment and dedication, making the best of every situation in which she finds herself. She is perfectly personified by Jazz Hibbard and her non-corporeal form played by Isabel Hibbard provides a quirky insight into her real feelings and motivation. Both perform the role well, but Isabel is definitely an actress to watch out out for quietly making her mark in Class Act's work.
The other actress who really stands out for me is Ayla Jafri, playing Queen Elizabeth. Combining the task of being a childless monarch with the need to constantly prove her ability to reign is a difficult task, but Jafri performs the role magnificently is regal and thoroughly believable in commanding the respect of the men of her court who doubt her, or plot behind her back to replace her with a more appropriate monarch in their eyes.
Jade Priestley is a sly lady in waiting to the Countess of Shrewsbury and performs her role well, more often than not it is the subtlety of her reaction rather than her action that convince teh audience she is not to be trusted.
Though limited roles are available for males within this production, the story does nevertheless require some and the young male actors seem to thoroughly enjoy their moments in the spotlight too. Joshua Watson is a slimy, manipulative Lord Walsingham, acting on behalf of his Queen but holding a low opinion of those below him. Charlie Henderson as George, the Earl of Shrewsbury gives a powerful and committed performance and Charlie Walker absolutely maximises the opportunities the role of the Duke of Norfolk provides him as a effete dandy, scheming to dethrone Elizabeth.
With a large cast such as this, I always worry that I will leave out a performer that has actually shone in their role but I am limited as to the length of my reviews and will struggle to include comments on every performance. So I shall list those not mentioned previously:
Emily Eastwood, Mya Clarke-Edwards, Jayden Henfrey, Luka Allison, Evelyn Robson-Simmons, Izzy Forman, Poppy Webb-Jones, Scarlett Hickson, Adam Bennett, Stephen Campbell, Oli Goodman and Chris Parker. A production like this is reliant upon every performer giving of their best and seeking to support those in principal roles. This is something at which ensembles at Class Act succeed time and time again. The level of support each offers is essential to the success if the show and is always apparent in their work.
As mentioned above The Glove Thief was performed for one-night-only. Instead, two more plays are being performed tonight and Review Culture will be there to review those too! Don't miss the chance to see the stars of tomorrow, today!
Andy Evans 03 November 2023.
All photography by Chris Parker copyright 2023.