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Coram Boy Artwork

All About Theatre Four star review

"A captivating and thought-provoking journey through hope, despair, and redemption."

The revival of Helen Edmundson's "Coram Boy," adapted from Jamila Gavin's acclaimed novel, is a testament to the enduring legacy of Thomas Coram, the Anglican philanthropist who established the Foundling Hospital in 1739. This institution, backed by the musical genius George Frideric Handel, serves as the historical backdrop for a gripping tale set in 18th-century England. Directed by the award-winning Anna Ledwich, this production at the Lowry Theatre brings a fresh, modern sensibility to a timeless narrative, exploring themes of hope, despair, and redemption.

Milo McCarthy, Holly Freeman, Rebecca Hayes, Tallulah Greive, Louisa Binder in CFT’s Coram Boy Photo Manuel Harlan

"Coram Boy" intricately weaves together the lives of several characters around the Foundling Hospital. The young chorister Alexander Ashbrook dreams of becoming a full-time musician but faces opposition from his authoritarian father. Simultaneously, the sinister Otis Gardiner, aided by the housekeeper Mrs. Lynch, exploits desperate mothers by promising to deliver their babies to the hospital, only to murder them for profit. The second act shifts focus to Aaron, Alexander's abandoned son, and Toby, the orphaned son of a slave, whose lives intersect in a harrowing yet hopeful tale of survival. Despite the complexity and occasional overwhelming nature of the plot, the story delivers a profound message about humanity and the resilience of the human spirit.

Tallulah Greive, Holly Freeman, Milo McCarthy in Coram Boy at Chichester Festival Theatre Photo Manuel Harlan

Simon Higlett's set design is a visual masterpiece, capturing the grandeur of Georgian architecture and seamlessly transitioning between various locales such as a church, the Ashbrook estate, and the Coram Hospital. The two-level set, featuring a curved staircase and minstrels' gallery, is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The period-accurate costumes further enhance the authenticity of the production, immersing the audience in the 18th-century setting. Stephen Higgins's direction of the choral singing, coupled with Max Pappenheim's evocative score, creates an emotionally charged soundscape. Although some non-naturalistic scenes with dramatic lighting and sound effects can be jarring, they add to the overall intensity and atmosphere of the play.

Louisa Binder (Aaron), Aled Gomer (Meshak) & Jewelle Hutchinson (Toby) in Coram Boy at CFT Photo Manuel Harlan

The cast of "Coram Boy" delivers standout performances, with Louisa Binder shining in her dual roles as Alexander and Aaron. Her clear, pure voice is a highlight, adding a layer of emotional depth to her characters. Samuel Oatley's portrayal of Otis Gardiner is chillingly effective, embodying ruthless exploitation. Aled Gomer's portrayal of Meshak brings poignant depth to his character's tortured journey. Rhianna Dorris convincingly captures the terror and confusion of Melissa's unwanted pregnancy. Despite the challenge of adult actors playing children, the ensemble's dedication ensures the story's emotional core resonates powerfully with the audience.

A scene from Coram Boy at Chichester Festival Theatre Photo Manuel Harlan

"Coram Boy" at the Lowry Theatre is an ambitious and emotionally charged production that tackles a complex narrative with historical and emotional depth. While the storyline can be overwhelming and some directorial choices puzzling, the play's ability to engage and evoke strong emotions is undeniable. This revival of a tale of philanthropy, cruelty, and redemption is both timely and poignant, reminding us of the enduring importance of how society treats its most vulnerable members. Four stars for a captivating and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

Coram Boy is on at The Lowry until Saturday 29th June 2024, you can purchase tickets by clicking on the button below.

Age Guidance: 12+ years old

For further information and Content Warnings – Click Here

Running Time:

Act one – 1hour 18 minutes

Interval – 20 minutes

Act two – 1 hour 10 mintes

Photo Credit - Manuel Harlan

*Our tickets for this show were kindly gifted in exchange for an honest review


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