6 February 2018

The third of three senior productions this term took place at St Helen's last week. Set in the small village of Anatevka against the backdrop of Czarist pogroms in pre-Revolutionary Russia, Fiddler on the Roof told the story of Tevye, a father of five daughters, as he tries to maintain his family's religious and cultural traditions in the face of an uncertain future. Packed with wonderful songs and spectacle, it featured Ben Adams in the leading role, supported by Reuben Havelock and a very talented crew of 5th and 6th form actors from both Abingdon and St Helen's.

A plangent melody, played from the balcony of the Yolande Paterson Hall by Bethan Kelly, the show's eponymous fiddler, immediately plunged us into the harsh world of Anatevka, in which the inhabitants “scramble for a living”. Ben Adams, as Tevye, gave us insights to the community's struggles and customs through some superbly delivered monologues that led seamlessly into songs such as “Tradition” and “If I Were a Rich Man”. An impressive backdrop depicting a huge, empty sky that could be lit in an array of colours, gave a sharp sense of the unforgiving landscape as the stage (and orchestra pit) filled with performers clad in headscarves, work boots and prayer shawls. Tevye and his family are at the heart of the story, and in Emma Richardson (Golde), Rachel Young (Tzeitel), Sophie Grantham (Hodel), Jess Ferguson (Chava), Caroline Conder (Shpritze), Grace Hunnings and Olivia O'Byrne (who shared the role of Bielke), Ben had a powerful team of accomplices who quickly established both the tensions and delights of family life in equal measure. With so many daughters, Tevye soon receives visits from a range of suitors, among whom Reuben Havelock (Lazar Wolf), Kit Mannix (Motel), Henry Muller (Perchik) and Callum Ravden (Fyedka) shone impressively. 

The large company not only acted and sang with gusto but also mastered some highly impressive choreography by St Helen's sixth form student Charlotte King – surely a great talent, and very much one to watch for in the future. An especially impressive sequence involved Tom Mills who, as Mordcha, the Innkeeper, performed a virtuoso bottle balancing act whilst high-stepping his way though a Cossack dance routine.

All in all, this was a superb production, and another fine feather in the caps of the St Helen's production team of Jo Watt (Director), Helena Rakowski (Musical Director) and Ash Verjee (Technical Director). All of us at Abingdon – pupils and drama staff alike – are fortunate to have such talented and committed colleagues to work with at St Helen's.

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