"This is a very good production of the William Gibson play about the true life story of Helen Keller. The well known story is both inspirational and at times, disturbing. This production manages to convey the emotional and physical struggles of Helen Keller and her family at a time and place where there was little understanding and acceptance of children with disabilities. There are strong performances from Scarlett Ward and Jessica Jolleys as Helen Keller and her determined Governess, Annie Sullivan as well as David McKechnie, Abigail Matthews and Zac Guest as the Keller family. The drama is moving but with touches of light humour and keeps you engaged throughout. It manages to convey the sheer physical and mental determination and patience of Annie Sullivan in trying to reach her young pupil to open up the world of communication and create a bridge to a family in which she did not fit into before. This play is well worth seeing and will not disappoint.
Well done to One From The Heart and Chelmsford City Theatres for bringing this production to The Cramphorn." - PB (audience member)
‘Lessons will be learned.’
"A phrase now so completely drained of all meaning and intent that, along with its clingy sibling ‘We’re setting up an Enquiry’ everyone knows it’s shorthand for ‘We don’t know what to do, so we’re kicking it into the long grass...’
The play ‘The Miracle Worker’ takes us back to a time when ‘Lessons were Learned.’ The Hard Way. And it takes us back to the formative years of Helen Keller, the extraordinary deaf-blind author, activist and lecturer born in Alabama in the 1880s and how she learned to communicate with the world outside herself.
So who ‘Learns’ along the way and what, exactly, do they learn?
We are introduced to Captain Keller, played by David McKechnie. A forceful yet subtle performance showing a man of his time desperate to keep up the appearance of the stern patriarch with a sense of exasperated love for his family and daughter. Often at the point of boiling anger, McKechnie’s character remains essentially likeable and sympathetic throughout.
Abigail Matthews plays Helen’s mother Kate Keller. She learns to trust her instincts and to stand up to Captain Keller to champion and support the unconventional teachings of Annie Sullivan. There is a well-judged sense of development in her character’s growth in confidence.
Zack Guest as James Keller learns too – to stand up to his Father and to articulate the new ways of treating that Sullivan brings to the household. This is a particularly strong performance in the second half of the play.
Sophie Delin, as Martha and Erin Geraghty as Aunt Ev learn too. Their place in the family hierarchy develops and changes as both are privy to observing how the private family dynamic is changed over time and both give excellently judged performances .
Annie Sullivan, played by Jessica Jolleys, is an inexperienced teacher, and she certainly learns too: To trust her instincts, honed from her own difficult early life experience. Of how to face up to the mistrust of the family and, ultimately, of how to reach out and communicate to the wayward child, Helen Keller. Jolleys gives us a truly engaging performance with a wide emotional range. She is both strong when dealing with Helen, yet fragile and unsure that her ideas will ultimately work.
And finally, the play, as does the Family itself, revolves around Helen Keller. Scarlett Ward, in an extraordinary performance, manages the very difficult acting feat of remaining both deeply engaging to us whilst at the same time, shockingly infuriating. Her performance is sometimes painful to watch and hear (for all the right, theatrical reasons.) Spoilt, self-centred yet frustrated and (literally) screaming for attention, she retains a core of ‘Helen-ness’ at the end of the play which is very moving.
Something about the ‘flashback’ scenes doesn’t always work. They don’t really fit the style of what is essentially a naturalistic piece but, overall, this is two hours of very powerful theatre.
The set and lighting are well researched and considered and sound and music are particularly evocative; the slow ticking of a Grandfather clock is well–used to heighten the slow progress of Annie’s teaching and the family’s frustrations."
AD (audience member)
The Miracle Worker runs until Saturday 16 October in the Cramphorn Studio. Book your tickets on The Miracle Worker webpage.