Kindred Spirits Theatre Company’s Anne of Green Gables – 5 July 2024, Philadelphia Wesleyan Reform Church

Review by Claire Taranaski.

Sheffield’s newest youth theatre company may have only been going a year but they are already gaining a reputation from their audiences for bringing sweet versions of classic children’s stories to the stage and their latest production is no different, providing a gentle abridged version of L. M. Montgomery’s classic books, perfect for those new to the stories or who have not visited them since their childhood.

Of course Anne of Green Gables would be nothing without a wonderful actress playing the role of Ann Shirley and Emily Bodmin did not disappoint, feeling like she was made for the role. As an audience we immediately warmed to her as she brought the part to life with a natural innocent, charm and personality that shone through and made each and everyone of us want to adopt her. She also had a natural chemistry with the entire cast and in a production with a minimal set her beautiful descriptions brought the world around her to life. She also possessed natural comedy timing, which many adult performers struggle with. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Left to right: Emily Bodman as Anne Shirley, Sophie Ellis as Marilla Cuthbert, Amelia Srour as Miss Stacy and Naffel Thomas-Sheedy as Matthew.

Other cast members who deserve a special mention are Anys Illsley-Walsh who was perfect as the meddling and gossiping Rachel Lynde, wonderfully playing a character beyond her age and making them relatable and someone the audience will gradually warm to. Another character Anne and the audience gradually warmed to and by the end loved was Marilla Cuthbert who takes Anne in, and this is thanks to the superb performance of Sophie Ellis again playing a character beyond her age.

I must also mention Naffel Thomas-Sheedy in his first role with the company as Matthew who had natural stage presence and superb chemistry with both Emily and Sophie that made you immediately warm to him; Evelyn Wakes as Mrs Barry who made a strong narrator and just had something about her stage performance that made her a natural on stage; and without giving the plot away Loki Zardin for their role as Gilbert Blythe, which taught us all to be careful what we say to people and who had natural innocent chemistry with Emily in the very last scene. Loki also deserves a special mention for creating the station master booth, which I would highly recommend using by any local companies whose productions include a turn of the century train station.

Left to right: Loki Zardin as Gilbert Blythe and Emily Bodman as Anne Shirley.

Behind the scenes praise must go to our, former reviewer, and now director of Kindred Spirits Heather Reynolds, who not only got the most out of the cast and small stage area but also showed genuine care and support for the members of the company and their wellbeing and who would lead me to highly recommend anyone whose children want to get into acting to join the company.

I came away from the show with a warm feeling inside, looking forward to seeing what Kindred Spirits do next and learning the important lesson never to mistake blackcurrant wine for raspberry cordial.

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