Did I mention it also features original songs performed by a cast of over 40 kids? Ambitious indeed.
No-one can accuse Youth Music Theatre UK of lacking ambition, as there are a number of technical challenges within this musical. For example, there’s the problem of creating the ark full of animals and a biblical flood, which director Charlotte Conquet tackles with gusto and imagination. By utilising the cast’s youthful physicality and puppetry to suggest animals alongside plastic sheets, projection and original music by Sonum Batra to bring the flood to life, Conquet certainly provides a visual spectacle for New Town Theatre’s vast stage. Thematically Not the End of the World deals with meaty issues and questions womankind’s obedient role in a heavily patriarchal and religious society which poses yet another challenge for the young cast. Oh, and did I mention it also features original songs performed by a cast of over 40 kids? Ambitious indeed.
Unfortunately the principal actors don’t seem quite mature enough to sufficiently tackle these issues and give the show the sense of apocalyptic urgency that it needs in order to be believable. Part of the problem is that the majority of characters are very two-dimensionally written and appear only to exist for Timna to react against and to highlight the themes (Noah is portrayed as an unquestioning zealot and Timna’s brother, Shem, appears to be nothing more than a hyper-macho wife-beater). The chorus effortlessly fills the stage with energy (at the beginning of the show in particular) but at times they seem to lack direction or a clear motivation to be onstage other than to add to the visual spectacle.
All in all one has to praise Youth Music Theatre UK for choosing to develop a new musical with challenging themes rather than simply regurgitating a pre-existing musical like most youth theatres but Not the End of the World requires some more direction and refinement in order to fulfil its potential.