"All the creative energy of a young Propeller or Cheek by Jowl."
John Retallack – Associate Director, Bristol Old Vic
"Unquestionably one of the most exciting and excellent theatre companies in the region. They’ve gone from strength to strength."
Michelle Walker – Artistic Director, Hat Fair [formerly Producer, Oxford Playhouse]
"I had such wonderful feedback...one of our board members said it had restored his faith in theatre!"
John Martin – Artistic Director, Trinity Theatre
“One of the best loved and most original companies touring new work”
John Terry – Artistic Director, Chipping Norton Theatre
"Working with Flintlock is a joy. They're incredibly hard-working, talented and driven, yet humble, professional and willing to learn."
Mark Makin, house Theatre
"The attention to detail in every area was just right, let alone the show – the planning of everything was just right"
Hedda Beeby – formerly Director, Watermill Theatre
Chipping Norton Theatre was the perfect setting for a night of wonders. Don Q is a tightrope act with a poignard thrust. It treads a fine line between rumbustious comedy, executed with great versatility and verve by Flintlock Theatre’s four talented actors – and bleak, tragic reflection.
Cervantes’ great novel of heroic self delusion is re-interpreted through the ageing figure of Norman Vaughan (Samuel Davies) of the Citizens Advice Bureau. Vaughan’s excitable appetite for chivalric fiction proves too much for his duplicitous nephew (Jeremy Barlow). With the aid of an all too willing doctor, the nephew consigns Vaughan to an old people’s home. Only his faithful carer Sam (Kate Colebrook) visits him. When Vaughan learns of Sam’s heartache at the loss of his wife Beryl to Graham at B&Q - they have sailed off together on the marital narrow boat - Vaughan imagines a chivalric quest. He will redeem his life through selfless acts of bravery, as Don Q, and Sam will regain his lady. At the heart of the story are profound human impulses for dignity and love.
Don Q’s defiance of ageing almost at the jaws of death is a tour de force of imaginative transcendence. Together, they encounter adventures broadly similar to those of Cervantes’ hero but updated and in many cases – uproarious. Flintlock Theatre’s co-founders artistic director Robin Colyer, and executive director and writer Anna Glynn repeatedly challenge – and actively involve the audience. There is much outlandish hat wearing, prompt card reading, dancing in the aisles and at one point, active extra participation on stage, which the rest of the audience loved. The picaresque farce is whipped up into peaks of wonderfully imaginative sequences, and incongruous prop use. Despite the challenge of evoking many landscapes and parallel times, the pace never falters.
Samuel Davis is outstanding as Don Q – grandiloquent, absurd, pathetic and defiant; Kate Colbrook’s Sam is touching and spirited. Francesca Binefa is dazzling as a kaleidoscope of characters, including a wonderful Spanish care worker, and Jeremy Barlow takes us inside the essential goodness of a hoodie who – despite appearances and street bant - Cameron could safely hug.
Talking to her writing mentor Toby Hulse about his reasons for staging Don Quixote at Bristol Old Vic, Hulse replied: ‘I had to watch my Dad die and found seeing him fade away heartbreaking.’ Glynn notes that she explored Scandanavian concepts of caring for older people with dementia ‘without disabusing them of their reality’.
We can only hope that when the time comes, we all have a little of Don Q in us.
We saw the very first night of Don Q – a riotously silly and brilliantly theatrical stage adaptation of Don Quixote – and knew that we had to bring it to Chipping Norton. I would love to tell you a little of what we saw, and hope that you will join us to enjoy it too.
This is the second show from Oxfordshire company Flintlock, who last visited us with their raucously funny production of The Government Inspector. In a few short years the company have gone from producing a show in a room above a pub in Jericho to becoming one of the best loved and most original companies touring new work. It is like watching a young Propeller or Cheek by Jowl finding their feet, and we have been pleased to support them and encourage them on their way.
Don Q develops their trademarks style – brilliant and often very daft physicality, high-paced storytelling and great music – and applies it to Cervantes’ great and baffling novel of knights errant and damsels in distress. Restaging the original around the story of a geriatric escapee from a retirement home, the production is full of gypsy jazz, bicycle races, spectacularly daft fight sequences and laughs a plenty. A great evening of high octane, hilarious theatre.
John Terry, Artistic Director – Chipping Norton Theatre
Doing a play with a large cast is usually a challenge. However, trying to adapt one of the most famous epic novels in European literature with a cast of only four actors (Jeremy Barlow, Francesca Binefa, Kate Colebrooke and Samuel Davies) is arguably even more difficult. The good news is that Flintlock Theatre’s “Don Q”, based on Cervantes’ “Don Quixote, rises to the challenge. It does this by combining an energetic jazz soundtrack, split second choreography and a few well chosen props with some very good comic acting.
The main performance is framed as a “play within a play” surreptitiously performed by four librarians. This focuses on Norman (Samuel Davies), who we see in an amazing piece of choreography growing from newborn to pensioner in a blink of an eye. After an altercation with a council official, and a drunken episode in his house, he is sent to a nursing home. However, he manages to persuade his former carer Sam (played by Kate Colebrook) to help him escape in order to fulfil his dream of becoming a knight.
Writer Anna Glynn and director Robin Colyer do an excellent job of updating Quixote’s escapades for the modern day, while remaining true to the source material. So the inn where he mistakes a couple of wineskins for some goblins becomes a pub running a medieval themed night. Similarly, instead of mistaking a couple of monks for enchanters, he mistakes two hoodies for monks. While that parts ends up being a little preachy, the ending when, having achieved his ambition (at least in his mind) he asks to be taken back to the home, still packs an emotional punch.
Flintlock should be congratulated for an original twist on a classic story.
This enterprising, Oxford-based company is on the road for the first time, with its acclaimed version of The Government Inspector. A very welcome addition to the roster of small-scale tours in the region. Robin Colyer’s madcap adaptation is set against sizeable screens, gaily painted as if by Chagall on speed, with two similarly daubed chairs. There are four actors, each of which carries several character changes in his suitcase. Klezmer is pumped through the sound system.
The familiar story is told clearly, with admirable energy and physical presence. Incognito, an Inspector will call to bring to light sleaze, corruption, scandal and other “little failings” endemic in a Russian backwater. The town’s officials offer blatant bribes to the pen-pusher and chum of Pushkin, and his man Osip, upgrading him from the Inn to the Mayor’s residence… The whole thing is done with consummate style, with costume detail added as necessary to the check shirts and shorts. But not only on stage. The remaining characters – the Mayor’s lovely daughter, the other Peter Ivanovich – are assumed by victims from the audience, with the aid of blonde wig, mortar board, bowler hat or bonnet. An ingenious device, which would work even better in the round, as this show was originally done.
This production is pure delight, a real tonic for theatregoers of all ages and tastes. Rubber chicken ? Check. Suspenders on socks ? Check. And a constant stream of wonderful touches – the “Inspector” carried inebriated to his bed, a Fawlty moment for the Mayor as he realises he’s been taken for a ride. Sam Davies is outstanding in that role; Robin Colyer, who also adapted and directed, plays the chancer Hlestakov, Francesca Binefa is Bobchinsky and Mrs Mayor, and Jeremy Barlow is the sidekick Osip as well as the gormless Charity Commissioner.
We were really sorry when the manic mayhem was over, and the characters were packed back into their suitcases. How on earth do they maintain that frenetic pace and punch? How do they get back up to speed after the interval ? Well, that’s easy. Here are the four performers, out in the foyer, entertaining the punters with a musical interlude where The Four Lads meet the Barenaked Ladies: a medley of Istanbul and The King of Bedside Manor. Now that’s class …
Artists in Residence at the Oxford Playhouse, Flintlock Theatre have thrown a popping klezmer sound track into the mix with this lively retelling of Gogol’s original tale of farcical local government corruption.
Guildford School of Acting graduates Jeremy Barlow, Francesca Binefa, Robin Colyer and Samuel Davies have developed into an accomplished satirical comedy troupe. There are shades of the Marx Brothers about them with some zaniness that would have looked at home in Green Wing. Never a dull moment, Flintlock employs extreme facial expression, body movement, slapstick, dance and outrageous interaction with innocent bystanders. The show was huge fun and had a full house stomping and shouting by the end of the two-part performance.
What better a backdrop to this adapted mid-nineteenth century Russian tale of furtive favours and farce than the current HSBC Swiss branch shenanigans? Today it’s ‘bricks’ of used notes walking out of a culture of silence. Back in 1836 Nikolai Gogol was having enormous fun at the expense of the dodgy geezers in small town Russian bureaucracy – nods and winks divided by almost two centuries, but a common theme to both.
The story has classic theatricality embedded in it: mistaken identity, petty ambition, vanity and rudderless morality. Flintlock takes this piece by the horns and runs it at full tempo from beginning to end without coming off the rails.
Davies as the Mayor is Groucho-like on the night, giving a fine pop-eyed performance full of silly walks, asides to the audience, terrific timing and a very watchable rubber face. But as an ensemble the four surely ticked what co-artistic director Colyer set out to achieve, which was to develop creative direction through playfulness. This show had its finger pressed firmly on the giggle button all night, and the stagecraft was spot-on. Throughout there was always a big connect with the audience, which was always made to feel part of the proceedings. And if the play wasn’t enough in itself, the audience was pleasantly surprised to be entertained in the bar during the interval by the group performing songs that they accompanied on double bass and ukulele. The party mood was not going to be allowed to dissipate. A great way to warm up a February night in Bristol, don’t miss it.
Flintlock Theatre’s new show Don Q is beginning to tour the South East. I have no doubt that The Government Inspector will win them enough new friends to ensure it swings South West sometime soon.
★★★★★ Simon Bishop
This hilarious adaptation of Gogol’s The Government Inspector by Flintlock Theatre is not to be missed. The original, satirical messages about the corruption, greed and bureaucratic stupidity of 19th century Russia are retained, but this is an ingenious version full of comical farce.
Formed in 2012, this is Flintlock Theatre’s first production and what a great start. Flintlock’s The Government Inspector was adapted and directed by artistic director and founder Robin Colyer, and produced by co-artistic director and co-founder Anna Glynn. Describing themselves as an ensemble company, the creative and acting team draw on dance, gymnastics, clowning, music, singing and acting to produce a fast-paced, physical and comical performance of great originality.
A mayor in a small town in 19th century Russia is alarmed to find the government is sending an official to inspect his district. The mayor and his cronies, deep in corruption, mistake Khlestakov, a visitor staying at the town’s inn, for the inspector. Thus starts a chain of incidents with the mayor and his corrupt town officials trying to ingratiate themselves with bribes and privileges to the wrong man.
The humour gets off to an energetic start which the four performers (Robin Colyer, Jeremy Barlow, Francesca Binefa and Samuel Davies) manage to keep up throughout. Their choreographed entrance is noisy and fun, setting the tone for the evening which at the end has the entire audience clapping and joining in with the Russian inspired folk music.
These four performers deserve huge praise. They take on all the roles with some very fast costume changes, hilariously ingenious use of hats and with a little help from quite a few members of the audience who need to make up the rest of the cast – complete with cue cards. Not only that, the foursome treat us to a musical interlude during the interval in the theatre café next door.
Tobacco Factory Theatres continues to support new and innovative theatre at both the Factory Theatre and the Brewery Theatre in Bristol. This production is just one part of the diverse and exciting programme of events, theatre and community activities to be enjoyed there. This is local theatre supporting community and new, exciting theatre at its best.
After their barnstorming debut with last year's The Government Inspector, Flintlock Theatre return with an original piece: Anna Glynn's Don Q. Wisely deciding against a straight retelling of Cervantes' 400,000-word Don Quixote, Glynn explores how an elderly would-be knight-errant might fare in the modern world. Bibliophile Norman Vaughan (Samuel Davies) is barred from his local library for refusing to leave at closing time, and placed in a retirement home by his nephew. With the help of his young friend Sam (Kate Colebrook) – Sancho Panza to Norman's Don Quixote – he escapes his confinement and sets off in search of the beautiful Dulcinea del Toboso. The many different characters they meet on the way are brought to life by the extremely versatile Jeremy Barlow and Francesca Binefa, with just a little help from the audience.
The play begins in a library, with all four cast members playing elderly librarians. This gives the actors their first opportunity for some audience interaction – a Flintlock hallmark – as they chatter away while people take their seats. Don Q then becomes a play-within-a-play as the librarians tell Norman's story, reverting to their librarian characters to observe from the fringes when not directly involved in the action. Scenery is minimal but highly effective, as simply a stepladder, a door, and occasionally a chair serve to conjure up the play's locations. Props and costumes, on the other hand, abound, and the cast juggle books, kitchen utensils, hoodies, walking sticks, signs, cue cards, and more books with great aplomb. Credit must go to director Robin Colyer for his marshalling of the action, particularly in the play's unspoken musical sequences, such as a recap of Norman's life story, and Don Q and Sancho Panza's thrilling (and hilarious) ride away from the retirement home.
The action in Don Q is frenetic and very funny, although the play does have its more poignant moments, which stand out all the more in the midst of the frenzied comings and goings. The cast are tireless, their energy levels never dropping, even after an excursion into the theatre café during the interval, to serenade the audience with library-themed reworkings of some well-known songs.
Don Q stays true to the spirit of Cervantes' original novel, while also subtly raising some important points about how we treat the elderly. It is also a heartfelt celebration of books, libraries and storytelling. If you don't manage to see it this week – and you should – then a tour is planned for 2015. Don't miss it.
Dan Booth, Oxford Daily Info
“I do accept the occasional bribe,” the local judge admits casually, “Just small gifts – a fur coat for my wife for instance.”
Well at least the coat isn’t likely to have come from an expensive London shop, for Gogol’s satirical comedy is set in small-town Russia. A warning that an inspector is coming throws the mayor into a right tizz, and he rushes around trying to get the town’s affairs in order: “Get the hospital straight!” he cries in panic-stricken tones, “Get rid of half the patients”.
The mayor is in such a state that he doesn’t even question the man whose hand is ever outstretched for just a few more roubles, and whose mouth is ever open for yet another freebie steak dinner at the local inn. Where are the man’s credentials? Nobody asks.
This is a show that demands a fast pace, split-second timing, and an ability to integrate the audience into the action. All these qualities are present in abundance in this Flintlock Theatre production by the new four-person (Jeremy Barlow, Robin Colyer, Sam Davies, Anna Glynn) professional ensemble company formed in Oxford.
As for audience participation, you could find yourself pressed into service, a sense enhanced by the intimate venue – a newly-revamped room above the Jericho Tavern. This show is terrific fun.
Nikolai Gogol‘s satirical novel The Government Inspector appears to have been the perfect choice for adaptation by new Oxford-based theatre company Flintlock Theatre. The story is essentially a comedy of errors in which the entire bureaucracy of a small unnamed town labours under a misapprehension that peripatetic dandy Ivan Alexandrovic is in fact a visiting government inspector. The fitful activity which accompanies news of the impending visit can only be compared to a school preparing for an Ofsted inspection, and the whole town is thrown into complete panic. Hearing Ivan‘s laments about being on the verge of bankruptcy, they assume him to be soliciting bribes, and respond accordingly. Needless to say, he takes the opportunity to fleece them mercilessly before fleeing town.
Sam Davies is hilarious as town mayor Anton Antonovich, a larger than life, almost Basil Fawlty-esque character, all flailing limbs and frenetic haste, who orders his long-suffering staff around with the same relentless impunity dished out to his wife (though to more effect and less follow-up grovelling). In fact the whole cast are superb comic actors: the voices, timing and movement all honed to perfection.
The cast are also extremely versatile, encompassing dance and song – and even a double bass/ ukulele interlude - into the performance. Music is crucial to the feel of the production, and the urgency and comedic tension of the piece is mirrored by an excellent soundtrack from the Amsterdam Klezmer Band.
The production takes place not on a stage, but in the middle of the room (the upstairs of a pub) with the audience surrounding the actors on all sides. This not only allows the players to forcibly incorporate several unwitting spectators into the proceedings, but brings the whole audience right up close to the action,: meaning that none of those twisted facial contortions or nervous ticks are missed.
It is unfortunate for the company that their performance has been somewhat eclipsed by a simultaneous production of the same play by the better known Northern Broadsides company. Flintlock‘s play deserves to be widely seen and I challenge anyone to see this play and not enjoy it. Their slightly bizarre mission statement – printed on to the pub‘s drink mats – claims they are “all about pushing the boundaries of simple theatrical devices” based on “an ancient understanding of simple materials”. They have certainly succeeded; you get the feeling you are witnessing a masterful perfection of a truly ancient art of storytelling through theatre. Though this was their first production, they perform with all the polish and flair of a long-established company. They will go far. A fantastic evening‘s entertainment.
“I was delighted to discover Flintlock Theatre when I attended a performance of The Government Inspector last year: the whole evening was hugely enjoyable, the audience experience was well considered from start to finish, and the show itself was spirited, great fun and contained moments of real theatrical panache. I knew then that Flintlock was a company to look out for and we’re very proud to have them as new professional theatre-makers on our Oxford doorstep. I’m particularly delighted that the Playhouse is now able to support them as they take their debut show on the road.”
Michell Walker, Producer
"Flintlock's performance was outstanding - fast, funny, intelligent - all the things that independent theatre should be. Students and staff alike were totally thrilled by it. We want them back!"
Christopher Ellott, Head of English
Flintlock Theatre's "The Government Inspector" is outstanding. Brilliantly innovative in its staging, this fast-paced farce is an audience's delight. Witty, sometimes biting, satire is perfectly pictched by a company whose individual talents richly complement each other. Virtuoso performances play on comic stereotypes with an imaginative twist, and the blend of Russian culture and contemporary jokes was a delight.
Tightly choreographed, but shot through with a subversive energy that anything might happen, this production captures the danger and delight of theatre at its best. The music and dance are intrinsic to its success, and the sheer passion, skill and conviction of the performers is spell-binding. Our students were wide-eyed in their delight.
Cathy Ellot, English Dept.
Like me, Flintlock Theatre like silly. Flintlock is made up of recent graduates from the Guildford School of Acting, including two members who have since set up their own youth theatre school. They seriously know what they are doing, yet they can do it with a serious sense of fun. Their inaugural production was a four-man rendition of The Government Inspector, staged last month in a room above the popular student pub, The Jericho Tavern in Oxford. An incredible combination of group dance, gentle chaos and farcical movement meant that this unusual layout was utilized in a number of surprising, clever ways.
Emma Wilkinson, Cambridge Footlights
CAROL-ANN S says " A quick message to say how much I enjoyed The Government Inspector last night. You're all so talented! The show was great fun and you all put your heart and soul into it. I thought the Jericho Tavern made a great little Theatre. I can't wait for your next production! A big 'Thank you' to all of you.”
CHRIS H says "Stonking night with Flintlock. What a superb debut - no tricks, no gimmicks, just top quality acting and a truly theatrical approach"
PAUL L says "Brilliant show - don't miss it!"
CHRIS P says "Awesome show last night. Full of energy, full of fun and full of witty banter"
DAVID G says "A hugely enjoyable and engaging evening...don't miss The Government Inspector! The physicality of the troop and instantaneous shape shifting of the multi-charactered cast made the evening romp past.”
PHILIP R says “We loved the show last night, thanks so much!”
CATHERINE J says "This is one of the best shows I have ever seen - great fun!!"
NAVNEET says "You guys were amazing this evening! The actors were brilliant!"
JOHN TERRY (Artistic director, Chipping Norton Theatre) says "Great show. Go see it!"
GARY & ALLIE say: "Just to say what fun we had last night at The Government Inspector" - exceptionally creative and entertaining! On the strength of that we will be coming to every show you do."
RACHEL P says “I went to see the play last night and you won't be surprised to know that the whole production is brilliant!”
CLEMENT G says “Wanted to say how much I enjoyed your company’s performance. Well worth driving down from London. Look forward to the next show.”
DI FYNN says “Congratulations on a great show! We thorough enjoyed it as clearly did the rest of the audience. You used the space above The Jericho so well and your energy and the pace of the whole show was terrific. It prompted a good deal of talk afterwards about your choice of costumes, use of music and the audience involvement - clever, interesting and great fun. Well done Flintlock Theatre on your very successful first show. We look forward to the next production!”
BARBARA B says “Wow what a show! They had us gripped from the minute they peered through the curtains. Excellent team work and the acting dancing, movement was outstanding. Most important things was it was entertainment....obviously with a serious message ....but everyone went home having been taken out of their day into an exaggerated world. [My husband] loved it and said he learnt a lot too. Although he loves live theatre it often disappoints him. Not this. Fantastic.