Utterly charming. Those are the words that keep coming back to me as I go to describe Mikron Theatre and their newest production, a tale of the chocolate industry. It’s a beautiful evening at Scarcroft Allotments but repeat audiences have returned for these players through sleet and rain and it’s easy to see why. With drama steeped in tradition and a healthy dose of nostalgia, Pure is a delightful piece with plenty of heart.
Richard Vergette’s script weaves plotlines across centuries, revolving around chocolate company Plumstead’s (instantly invoking memories of Britain’s large chocolate factories, even without the familiar purple wrapper on bars of Plumstead’s Pure) both at its beginning and its apparent end. The two storylines work well independently of one another whilst also entwining nicely to create a thoughtfully crafted play. Whether it’s Thomas Plumstead joining forces with the inventor of a chocolate machine to save a nation from drink, or Plumstead’s modern-day employees fighting to keep the company away from conglomerate Kreation’s buyout, a love of chocolate is blended with the moral of people taking a risk to create, or save, a British legacy.
Eager to deal with issues of ethics in the chocolate industry, the company employ several techniques to discuss the working conditions behind the growth of cocoa beans. It’s a serious subject which is dealt with brilliantly in Rebekah Hughes’ song about the Ivory Coast, an effective look into the darker side of the chocolate business which conveys Tarquin (Matt Joplin)’s guilt over his role in a non-fairtrade company. However, there are moments where the message feels a little too hammered into the plot and the script could run the risk of becoming heavy-handed in its moral stance. That’s not to discredit the cast, who are a wonderful ensemble. Claire Burns’ Faye, often the mouthpiece for the play’s ethical discussion, is suitably flustered and self-righteous, yet even she is found lacking during a powerful scene where she’s questioned on the full extent of her ethics. It’s a clever set piece which packs a punch and has a powerful impact on an audience who can relate to feeling uncertain as to the origin of their clothing, food and mod-cons.
The cast’s multi-rolling reveals a host of speedy costume changes and varied accents which reveals just how slick Stefan Escreet’s direction is. The chemistry in the cast feels very genuine and the company is a joy to watch interact. The ultimate strength of Mikron’s production is Hughes’ score, a bouncy multitude of musical numbers which pitch the tone of each scene well. Aping a range of genres and with half an orchestra hidden up the sleeves of the cast, the soundtrack is memorable and opens the way to some beautifully silly set pieces. A personal favourite is The Chocolate Machine song. Packed with percussive punch, the song builds in tempo to a wondrously whimsical patter that Wonka himself would be proud of.
True, the emotional swell at the plot’s climax could come off as a little sickly sweet in places, but it’s played with the level of sincerity that saves the play from ending on too schmaltzy a note. The perfect companion to your bar of chocolate, but if you don’t have access to any confection the sweetness comes in buckets from Mikron. 4/5
Review written by Louise Jones.
Pure was shown at the Scarcroft Allotment on Tuesday 7th June. The production is currently on tour, for more info visit here…