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Review - In Clay

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Playing until 7th April 2024

Interview with Rebecca Simmonds and Jack Miles, the creatives behind In Clay.

Photo credit: Felix Mosse

Review {AD-PR Invite}

Based on what we know of Marie-Berthe Cazin, writer (Rebecca Simmonds) and composer (Jack Miles) expand upon the limited information about Marie-Berthe and create an interpretation of her growth as an artist, exploring what it is that she yearns to gain through her work.


Rosalind Ford, having played Marie-Berthe in previous iterations, reprises her role in this new production. Tackling this challenging role head up, Ford’s portrayal of Marie-Berthe is dynamic, effortlessly showcasing the transition of a blossoming young artistic eager for notoriety into one that have learned appreciate simply the joy of creation and appreciation. The characterisation and vocal range of this role are both exceptionally demanding, requiring constant switching of characters, all of whom are played by Ford. Despite such challenges, the characterisation of each individual role remains distinct, each retaining their own quirks.


Simmonds and Miles’s lyrics are exceptionally crafted to capture the turmoil of Marie-Berthe’s inner dialogues and the dynamic nature of conversations between Marie and her husband, Michel, and her childhood friend and artistic rival, Henrietta. ‘Talent’, performed toward the start of the show, sets the tone of the show and the Marie-Berthe’s passion and initial aspirations as an artist, with ‘Fingernails’ and ‘What’s in Between’ marking the transitions points, further highlighting her growth over the course of the production


What sets this new musical apart from some of the other works is the incorporation of other art mediums, particularly pot throwing (no, this doesn’t refer to physically throwing a pot away as I learned), which is performed live on stage by Ford. To be able to musically perform and throw a pot simultaneously is in itself a spectacle to behold. What is more astonishing is that the pot throwing by itself, accompanied only by the live band without lyrics, builds a sense of focus and serenity as Ford calmly moulds her creation.


Rachael Ryan’s set design provide both functionality and establishing the chaotic nature of artistic creation with both finished and unfinished paintings and ceramics, some are focused upon at certain points of the show. One minor thing which I would have wanted to see is a bigger and grander showcase of such art works as part of the exhibition portions of the show, highlighting the possibilities and glamour to re-ignite Marie-Berthe’s aspirations from her youth and exaggerating the lack of attention that she herself received compared with the pieces around her.


Accompanied by a pre-show ceramic exhibition, In Clay immerses the audience in the world of ceramicists and enhances the overall relatability of Marie-Berthe’s story and her growth.  


Book and lyrics: Rebecca Simmonds

Music and lyrics: Jack Miles

Director: Grace Taylor

Set and Costume design: Rachael Ryan

Lighting design: Chris Mcdonnell

Sound design: Florence Hand

Music supervision; arrangements, orchestration, additional music: Matt Herbert

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