Review: Pure by Mikron Theatre

Stephanie-Hackett, Claire Burns and Matt Jopling from Mikron Theatre in Pure. Photographs: Peter Boyd
10 Jun 2016 @ 4.31 pm
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Pure by Mikron Theatre

Scarcroft Allotments

June 7, 2016

Mikron Theatre website

You don’t normally consult the weather forecast when heading off to see a play, but thunderstorms had been predicted. Would we escape a soaking?

You don’t normally consult the TV listings when heading off to see a play, but political thunderstorms were forecast. David Cameron and Nigel Farage were staging a Europe debate frown-off on ITV.

Perhaps if more people sat in the sunshine and watched a play instead of seeing politicians fulminate, the world would be a saner place.

A full house had turned out to see this play staged not in a theatre but on a patch of grass surrounded by Scarcroft Allotments, a short distance from a busy road and yet miles from the busyness of life.

Acting miracles

‘Amusing and insightful’
‘Amusing and insightful’

Mikron has a slogan that contains its admirable philosophy: “Theatre anywhere for everyone by canal, river and road.” The company has been touring in this manner for 45 years and estimates to have performed more than 4,550 shows to 378,000 people.

The present cast of four conjure acting miracles in Richard Vergette’s amusing and insightful melodrama. Between them, Stephanie Hackett, James McLean, Claire Burns and Matt Jopling play a host of quick-change characters.

They also all turn their clever hands to assorted musical instruments to deliver the first-rate songs by Rebekah Hughes.

No one actor stands out, but only in the sense that each throws themselves into the play with wit and gusto, and in that energetic enterprise are worthy of equal praise.

That bar design looks familiar
That bar design looks familiar

Pure slips between two eras of chocolate-making. The modern strand concerns the takeover of Plumstead’s Pure Chocolate by a big US corporation, Kreation Foods.

A Big Cheese – if that’s not to mix metaphors in the chocolate world – flies in to reassure staff, while simultaneously plotting for production to be downgraded and moved abroad (any parallels with real life in York only added another silver wrapper to the drama).

Two lowly staff members, and one useless marketing boss, are caught up in the approaching changes, and everything looks gloomy, although an unexpected ending – involving the wearing of an impressive strap-on moustache by Matt Jopling – provides a happier resolution.

A proper delight

‘Songs that dance and shine’
‘Songs that dance and shine’

The other layer in this chunky chocolate bar of a play is set 150 years earlier and shows how the invention of a cocoa processing machine turns round the lives of the seemingly doomed Jordans – and their gin-sodden aunt.

In this historical story, James McClean switches nimbly between portraying the Quaker chocolate-maker Plumstead and a scheming evil landlord called Darius Sanguine – while also playing the trombone.

Musical director Rebekah Hughes writes songs that dance and shine, and her advert jingle for the reborn Plumstead’s Pure was a proper delight, complete with purple shimmying from Claire Burns.

Stefan Escreet directs everything with brisk verve, and Kate Morton’s minimal design employs three screens bearing the Plumstead Pure logo, behind which the cast do their quick changes.

The thunderstorm never came and the crowd went home happy – certainly a lot happier than if they’d stayed in and watched Cameron and Farage on the television.

Pure is on tour and Mikron return to York on September 25 when the other play in its season, Canary Girls, is at Clements Hall, at 4pm.