Clever and Modern Wit: ‘Model Village’ Review

model village
Image credit: Lamar Francois


Model Village is New Perspectives’ latest production marking the beginning of the company’s 50th anniversary season. The play follows model-makers Bob and Holly (played respectively by Duane Hannibal and Abigail Pidgeon) as they try their best to keep visitors coming to their model village. The village, a static portrait of an English village in 1936, needs to feel a little more real and relatable, so they enlist the help of edgy satirical artist Cutler (Lee Rufford). There is, however, one problem: the tiny, living residents of the village are in conflict over the changes being made to their home, and their mayor has his own agenda to put into play.

It might sound implausible for every aspect of a play to be so well-developed when it boasts six characters and only three actors, but every actor plays their parts perfectly. Pidgeon switches so seamlessly between the optimistic Holly and sniffy Jill that it’s hard to believe you’re watching one actor at work. Hannibal (who Midlands audiences might recognise from 2022 play Homegirl) and Rufford achieve the same, with Hannibal embodying both the placid Bob and corrupt, somewhat manic Mayor.

The trailer for Model Village.

The script, written by Anita Sullivan, carries a clever and modern wit. The residents of the model village are charming without becoming grating. Their sections incorporate a wonderfully subtle love story, political tensions and themes of individuality without losing sight of the main plot. From Cutler’s modern art to elderly women in wolf fleeces, Sullivan knows which keys to play to endear the audience to the show’s humour.

Speaking of the model village, this is another triumph: the set (designed by Gemma Caseley-Kirk) somehow incorporates both worlds on one stage, simultaneously, without either feeling cramped or obscured. Small, perfectly pastel houses and miniature fences take the forefront, and the actors manage to inhabit them with ease. One might expect a miniature set to mean severely restricted motion when it comes to acting, but the cast navigate it and make every movement important.

One aspect of the play that sets it apart is its interactivity. The story has two potential endings, and towards the conclusion of the second act we, the audience, are asked to vote. This is an innovative way of reinforcing the importance of everyone having a say in how to change our world, and audience enjoyment is visibly increased with the assertion that those observing art are also able to participate in it.

Compounding entertainment and food for thought, Model Village embodies its message about the small carrying power.

Model Village will tour until 25 November. A full list of dates can be found on New Perspectives’ website.

Words by Casey Langton

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