‘946’ Amazes at The Wallis

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By William Nedved

Searching for a theatrical experience the entire family can enjoy? Look no further. We’ve got just the show – and cat – for you.

Ncuti Gatwa as Adi and Nandi Bhebhe as Harry in “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.”

The renowned UK company Kneehigh Theatre returns to The Wallis in Beverly Hills with 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, a timely and timeless tale of love and inclusion set against the backdrop of the second world war. 946 is based on the young adult novel by Michael Morpurgo, who also wrote the bestseller War Horse, which was turned into a Tony Award-winning play and a film by Steven Spielberg. Morpurgo co-created 946 with Kneehigh’s Emma Rice, whose acclaimed production of Brief Encounter played during The Wallis’ inaugural season in 2014.

946 transports us to the coastal village of Slapton Sands, England, in 1944. The spirited pre-teen Lily Tregenze, her family and 3,000 other villagers are ordered out of their homes so that the Allied forces can rehearse their landings for D-Day, in preparation to invade occupied France. Lily’s adventurous cat Tips has a mind of her own and goes missing in the fenced-off practice area. Lily must team up with two African-American soldiers – whom she had seen as the enemy – in order to find Tips.

The Company of “946” and the Kneehigh Band will appear at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Photos by Steve Tanner.

“946 allows us to remember the intense passions, senses and fears of being a child, and through this deceptively simple lens a global, timeless and political vision appears,” explains Rice, who is now the Artistic Director of The Globe Theatre in London, where the production played to ecstatic crowds last summer.

Morpurgo was excited to revisit his book for the stage adaptation. “Everyone in this story, everyone – the Americans, the local population – is displaced, they’re all basically refugees from their own places, and feeling alone and bereft and under threat. So that somehow linked the story up to today, and I therefore came to it with renewed vigor.”

Wallis Artistic Director Paul Crewes has his own connection to the musical play. Crewes was previously the Executive Producer of Kneehigh Theatre, and commissioned the script from Morpurgo and Rice, one of his last productions before relocating to Los Angeles to oversee the programming at the Beverly Hills arts hub. “946 is a work of total theatre, by which I mean it uses all of the performing arts — acting, music, dance, puppetry, clowning — to tell the tale of one young woman’s coming-of-age during a time of prejudice and fear. I am incredibly proud to share 946 in my new artistic home.”

Kneehigh Theatre’s “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” plays from February 9th-March 5th in the Bram Goldsmith Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. For more information and tickets visit TheWallis.org/946 or call (310) 746-4000.

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