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Review: The Prisoner of Zenda - Quill & Inkling Theatre Co. (24th July 2022)

In the last episode, I interviewed Ivan Wilkinson, who is the co-founder of Quill & Inkling Theatre Company. They were mid-tour of their original adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda, and I went along to see it on a beautiful summery, Sunday afternoon at Whitlingham Country Park, near Norwich. And for what it's worth, here's what I thought.

The show comprised a cast of just four actors, Duncan P Woodruff, Kiara Hawker, Georgie Matthews and Ivan himself. Each of the awesome foursome were extremely versatile and accomplished. They characterised their numerous different roles so well that it was easy to follow who was who in the story - although admittedly having some slightly more unique costumes for each character would have aided the distinction. Georgie and Kiara in particular did a sterling job with their characters, bringing a smile to the face throughout as the military officers who assist in covering up the incumbent King's disappearance. While playing the character, Georgie managed to contort her face in such a way that she became oddly unrecognisable, which is a compliment by the way!

The story itself was a little bit threadbare, but the show wasn't really about the detail or any kind of subtlety, it was about telling what is a fantastical and hugely entertaining story in a simple and fun way, and they did it brilliantly.

The very minimal set, consisting of just a few wooden blocks, a table, a chest and a couple of pieces of trellis, were used creatively to create much more grandiose and at times perilous surroundings. The actors themselves enhanced the intended imagery with their excellent physical theatre skills – I particularly enjoyed the very inventive way they had Duncan swimming to the King’s rescue. Ivan and Duncan also lifted the sense of theatre with their superb swordfighting display, showing themselves to be very skilled at the art of stage combat.

Most of all though, the show was just great fun. This is a troupe of actors who are all very adept, and best of all, don't take themselves too seriously. This was never more in evidence when I was in attendance as the set was partially dismantled by the wind! However, Georgie and Duncan who were ‘on stage’ at the time, remained unflustered. After a brief acknowledgement (“my castle’s falling apart!”) they resumed the scene whilst Ivan and Kiara put the set back together behind them with smiles on their faces and in a calm, professional manner rather than flapping about. They handled what may have been an annoying disruption for other groups in a joyful and endearing way.

The show is back in East Anglia from the 14th to the 21st August - still within the school holidays, which is fantastic since the show is a brilliant one for children too. Do check it out!


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