This may come as a bit of a surprise, but Woodley is actually Under The Sea.
And no, we’ve not opened our A-to-Z at the wrong pages. This Christmas, it’s life under an ocean wave for The Oakwood Centre.
It’s the venue for the Berkshire premiere of the world famous msuical The Little Mermaid. Based on the Disney film, the production is being staged by youth theatre company Berzerk Productions.
“This is the first time in Berkshire. Disney only released the licence last year and it’s come from Broadway,” explains Matt Whitelock, who heads up Berzerk and is pictured below.
“The show is perfect for ages three upwards – it’s visually stunning.”
It’s not just stunning. The show is a challenge too.
If you’ve ever been to the Oakwood, you’ll know that the stage is fairly small and … well, dry. Trying to convert it into an underwater world, a sailing boat and dry land is no small task, but it’s something that Berzerk relishes.
“The sets look fantastic,” Matt promises. “We’ve used a local company from outside Woodley and they’ve done a fantastic job. The whole audience will become part of the sea with fish flying about the auditorium.”
Matt remains tight-lipped about how the fish will fly, but he does promise that it’ll look “crazy and fun”.
Although it’s a production with a junior cast, Matt doesn’t want his audiences to feel “ripped off” with what they see. “We do our best to make sure it’s a quality production that people will enjoy,” he explains. “We’re pushing boundaries and taking risks.
“It’s definitely the most challenging production for us to stage. We’ve been asking how do we get the big ship on stage, how do we go under the sea etc. We’ve been using all our technical knowledge to ensure the quality is there and the audience are transported to these locations.”
The cast of 30 ranges in age from eight to 16, and follows from previous energetic productions including The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Alice In Wonderland.
“Sophie Atheron plays Ariel – she’s always loved The Little Mermaid since she was a child,” Matt says. “She’s delighted to be playing the part.
“Martha Roper is playing Ursula and she’s looking forward to being a baddie.”
One of the reasons that Berzerk performs challenging shows is that Matt says he can’t stand what he jokingly refers to as three hours of dance school shows.
“I like doing shows that members of the public can watch … and we can meet their expectations,” he says.
And they are – ticket sales for The Little Mermaid are going fast and Matt advises you to be quick to avoid that sinking feeling.
“Saturday is selling really well, it’s almost sold out. Tickets are going really quick, which is great.”
How to get tickets
The Little Mermaid is performed at The Oakwood Theatre from Wednesday, December 17 to Sunday, December 21. Wed-Fri shows are at 7.45pm and weekend shows are at 2pm and 5pm.
Tickets cost £9.75 for children, £11.75 for adults and £39.75 for a family ticket of four, plus a booking fee.
To book tickets, click here to visit TicketSource.
For more details, log on to www.berzerkproductions.com.
Cast your net an catch a preview
The cast will be giving a preview of the show at the Broad Street Mall Christmas light switch-on on Saturday, November 15 and at Woodley’s Winter Extravaganza on Saturday, November 29.