Stately fashioned

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
Hiawatha, Adapted by Michael Bogdanov. Classworks.

Here's a minor miracle. In hard times, this Cambridge-based company offers a cast of seven in a school's tour of the play Michael Bogdanov fashioned from Longfellow's poem.

Aimed at key stages two and three, the two-hour show blends poetry, action, dance, crafts and moments of intense theatrical beauty. Beside the cultural authenticity (members of the Ojibway and Wampanoag tribes worked with the company, influencing design, music and dance) it is a joy to see such full-blooded theatricality presented with such conviction that even two hours seated on a wooden floor could not dampen audience enthusiasm.

From the stately peace-pipe ceremony at the opening, establishing the circular design scheme derived from American Indian tradition, through moments of awed serenity like the coming of Nokomis, vivid physical action - Hiawatha's struggle with his father, the pursuit of Pau-Puk-Keewis - to the sustained tear-inducing death of Hiawatha, director Claudette Bryanston Cross and her cast achieve a vigorous, sympathetic production that works as storytelling and cultural insight. Economy of means - white tissues for snow - heightens the audience's imaginative participation.

Classworks also offers an expressive arts workshop, built around a different part of the Hiawatha legend where the cast work on acting, music, storytelling and Indian crafts culminating in a presentation by pupils.

Touring, details: 01223 461901.

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