Theatre Review: Model Village

Words: Andrew Kells
Sunday 22 October 2023
reading time: min, words

It takes a village to raise a play. Model Village at Nonsuch Studios...

Model Village Facebook Landscape

Always loved visiting model villages as a kid- suddenly, you’re not small, you’re big. You tower over thatched cottages, cast a giant shadow across a whole cricket pitch- but you have to watch your step. Make the wrong move in your frog wellies and whatever ends under your feet is history.

The big consequences of changes in a small world are brilliantly explored in Anita Sullivan’s play, where the fate of the Model Village is ultimately made by the audience.

With visitor numbers needing a boost after the effects of Covid lockdown have knocked them and the world outside for six, veteran modelmaker Bob’s plan to revive the model village’s  fortunes with help from influencer artist Cutler does not go down well with aspiring modelmaker Holly- until she sees it as a chance for her sidelined ideas and dreams for the tiny village to finally happen.

But while the ‘Bigs’ above make changes they feel are for the better, things are not all rosy in the village below, with villagers used to repeating the same day in 1936 over and over beginning to change too. While visitors flock to see Cutler’s new vision of the model village, tensions rise as Holly’s dreams of a better life are streamlined to fit Bob’s art deco vision, and the villagers begin to revolt, much to the surprise of the model makers. Then one badly placed foot makes life a lot more complicated for everyone…

The villagers begin to revolt, much to the surprise of the model makers

Model Village is a gem of a play- the problems and fears of the villagers doomed to repeat 1936 feel eerily familiar, with the arrival of new housing, and ideas, and people being treated with suspicion. Sullivan’s use of a certain three word phrase fits as comfortably in the village mayor's speech as it does with current politicians.

Performances by Duane Hannibal, Abigail Pidgeon and Lee Rufford are funny and heartfelt- and the cast seem to relish the playful transformation from the ‘Bigs’  to the villagers as much as the audience do. With Nick Underwood’s music evoking the magic of Camberwick Green/Teletubbyland/In the Night Garden (pick whatever fits your childhood) we all just go with it. After being bombarded by high-res special effects on every screen we see, watching actors using their own movement and voices in front of us is a refreshing change.

The final trick of Model Village is to have two endings- only one can be performed and as the lights go up on us in Nonsuch Studio, we realise it’s up to us to decide- not the Bigs. What steps should we take? Go see it, and make your choice.

Model Village played at Nonsuch Studios on Thursday 19 October 2023. See New Perspectives for further tour dates.

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