For theatre... online, non-professional, amateur
Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

Commissioned by NYMT in 2017, this revival showcases the talents of an enthusiastic, talented young company and, as ever, it’s the imaginative direction (lots of slow motion with chairs, for instance) which really lifts it.

Richard Hough’s feel-good, happy ending story is a long way from the historical facts about Henry McCarty – aka Billy the Kid – an outlaw who shot and killed eight men before being shot at age 21. Instead we meet a very young Billy (Charlie Wright) who, in a neat framing device is trying to find the courage to face down an aggressive group of bullies in his 21st century school.

Daydreaming as an escape, while the teacher recounts the events of the 1860s, Billy becomes a forceful, but ultimately moral, hero in his own story as we flash back colourfully to the saloon bar and the sauve-qui-peut of the days when the whole town was under a protection racket. With a hint of the Wizard of Oz the bullies and the nineteenth century gang are all played by the same actors. Other school characters reappear in different guises in his dream – a group of five leggy, sporty, all-American cheerleader types become a very good troupe of saloon bar dancers, for example.

And behind all this is Ben Morales Frost’s enjoyable score with all the off beat sequences and lyricism which evoke the world of late nineteenth century cowboy country. The inevitable hoe down scene is a delight. It isn’t quite Aaron Copland but it’s great fun.

Charlie Wright – only 14 and physically quite small – steals the show as Billy. He gives us wistfulness spliced with strength and pragmatism finally overcome by wisdom. It’s quite a nuanced performance and his singing is both sensitive and mature.

The support cast is strong and the piece is written to give lots of characters a moment in the spotlight so we hear a number of good soloists amongst whom Sophie Muringu stands out as Mary, the bar co-owner who becomes a moral support in Billy’s life. She sings beautifully and her acting is totally convincing.

We’re in Lincoln County, New Mexico and the atmosphere is spot on with some sultry lighting and wheel-on-and-off sets, the movement of which is integrated into ensemble action. The southern accents are harder for a young cast to nail and some of the vowel sounds are inappropriately distorted but these young people have worked together for only a short time and it really doesn’t matter much.

One of the things I like very much about NYMT  shows is the use of a vibrant youth band  and the habit of bringing them all on stage at curtain call. They play beautifully in this show and Olivia Howdle’s eloquent violin work really stood out for me.

  • : admin
  • : 26/08/2021


We’re in Anne Frank territory. It’s Amsterdam in 1944. Some Jews are in hiding, some people are trying to help them while others – we’re in the heart of the community with people who’ve known each other all their lives – agree with occupying Nazi policy or seem to. And at the centre of all this is a sparky child (role shared between Charlie Herlihy and Ellie Jones across different performances) whose origins suddenly turn out to be not quite what she has been brought up to believe.

There’s plenty of warmth, a lot of drama and if the story telling is disjointedly unclear at the beginning before the piece gradually slides into focus then it doesn’t matter much. The early scenes actually seem hideously topical as we watch people fleeing from danger in a week when we’re all thinking about the situation in Afghanistan.

Commissioned from Alex Parker and Katie Lam by NYMT for last year but, perforce, postponed until now Henrietta is a good piece for a youth organisation. Because NYMT works with young people from age 10-23 there are children to play the juvenile roles along with competent performers in their early 20s able to play adults in their thirties with conviction. In fact Reuben Browne, 22, plays an older teacher (he has taught Henrietta’s mother) and it works – he also sings with panache especially in the lilting 3|4  number in which he tells Henrietta a story about his own son which then morphs (tempo and key change) into an impassioned lament and declaration of pride.

Izzie Mackie is strong as teacher Miss Van de Berg who hides behind a stereotype in Act 1 before revealing herself ( eventually reaching a fabulous full belt) as something quite different in Act 2.  Sydney Richards is moving as Rachel who leaves Amsterdam (and a lot more besides) with her husband to live elsewhere in safety.

Skilfully directed by Kate Colledge, the talents of everyone in this accomplished casa of 32 are exploited and I really love Lucinda Lawrence’s choreography which takes every opportunity to present children as children – dancing and playing with glee despite the horrors going on around them. Set changes are neatly choreographed in too so the whole thing is seamless.

And joy of joy – this is what gets Henrietta its fourth star – is the live youth band, who, tucked away out of sight, produce great richness and sound very professional. I was delighted to see them all brought on stage at the end for their own curtain call.

  • : admin
  • : 19/08/2021