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The Lottie Project (Susan Elkin reviews)

The Lottie Project
Jacqueline Wilson
society/company: Lindley Players Limited
performance date: 20 Jul 2019
venue: The Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable

Vicky Ireland’s adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s pertinently observed novel tells the story of feisty, forthright Charlie. It’s a neat paralleling of her own life – only child of a young single mother who’s just lost her job – and the experiences of Lottie, a Victorian servant girl and the subject of Charlie’s primary school project. I first saw, and admired, this show at Polka Theatre where it premiered in 1999 and it’s a treat to see a revival in competent amateur hands and featuring twelve children.

Sophia Lahouel, in her first show with the Lindley Players is excellent as Charley (and Lottie who appears, with a different, servant-esque accent on video between scenes). She takes a few minutes to warm up but then really makes the part her own – from primary school enthusiasm, feigned cynicism, spite, remorse and curiosity to fearful fury when she suspects her mother may be acquiring a boyfriend. She creates s a very rounded character and Lahouel works particularly well with Kate Gee who plays Jo, her mum and makes her very believable. Oli Conway, also making his Lindley Players debut, is suitably “nerdy, grotty and swotty” (but likeable) as Jamie, and there’s a nice performance from Emily Mumford as the younger, motherless boy Robin.

The structure of the piece allows some crowd scenes – including a couple of nicely directed (David Daly) classroom sequences and those are never easy to bring off plausibly. It also provides lots of small roles for adults as Charlie’s grandparents, Jamie’s mum, Robin’s dad and more. In a cost-aware professional production many of these would be doubled and it’s quite a treat to see each one separately cast and providing opportunities for lots of actors. I especially liked Lindley Players veteran, Peter Bressington as Charlie’s rather distant, idée fixe grandfather and Theresa Rowlstone as the optimistic, professional hospital doctor.

The acoustic of the Whitstable Playhouse, combined with the timbre of young voices, means that there is an occasional audibility problem. In a professional show the children would almost certainly have been mic’d up and considering they aren’t they do very well – plenty of naturalistic acting and no sense of anyone shouting. There’s a minor problem with Ken Pratt’s video production of Lahouel as Lottie too because the sound is not quite synced. Both these, though, are very minor matters in what is, a very pleasing show.

I just wish more of those DFLs (as the locals call them – Down From Londons) with whom Whitstable was heaving when I arrived at the theatre, had brought their children in to see it. This show deserves a full house.

 First published by Sardines
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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