Holes

Youth Arts Leicestershire has been coming to the Fringe for thirteen years. It aims to develop quality participatory performing arts activities for young people aged five to twenty five.

Holes is adapted from the book by Louis Sachar. A film version was released in 2003. Stanley Yelnats is falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes and will either go to jail or to Camp Green Lake. Stanley chooses Green Lake, where he is forced to dig large holes in the desert each day, by order of the mysterious warden and her assistants. The warden claims that digging builds character and that if she takes bad kids and makes them dig holes all day in the hot sun, then they’ll turn into good kids. But is there more to it than that? The answer to that comes from the history of the curse on Stanley’s family and the story of the outlaw Kate Barlow.

The play opens with seven new inmates arriving at Camp Green Lake. They are all ordered to put on orange overalls, which will be their uniform while they remain there. They are told that they will spend all day, every day, digging holes in the desert and that there are no guards or fences because there is no water within a hundred miles, although there are plenty of snakes and poisonous lizards. The stage is bare and there are almost no props; the actors have to make the audience see the desert, the snakes and lizards, the holes and even the shovels they are digging with.

Water is delivered to the inmates in a truck and doled out by a sadistic warder, who withholds it capriciously. They have to give him any objects they find while digging to be passed on to the warden; the finder of an interesting object gets extra water and a day’s rest. When Stanley finds something, it is taken away from him by another inmate, which doesn’t surprise him because of his history of bad luck.

Interwoven into the desert scenes are the stories of Stanley’s ancestors and the curse on their family, resulting from breaking a promise, and that of Kate Barlow, a former schoolteacher in the Wild West, later turned outlaw. Ultimately, all these stories are shown to be linked and Stanley is finally able to break the curse by fulfilling the promise.

This is a very interesting and enjoyable production. The actors each play several roles and concentration is required to keep track of them, particularly when they are all dressed in orange. It might be difficult for younger children to follow and some of the scenes, such as Stanley falling into a lizards’ nest, could be frightening for them. All the performances are very convincing. An excellent play suitable for adults and older children.

Reviews by Alan Chorley

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The Blurb

Quaker Meeting House, 14-18 August 12.30pm (1 hour)

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