Are you tired of Jazz hands? Sick of the predictable eleven o’clock number? Do tap shoes and sequins leave you thirsty for something else? Then Fables For A Boy, which boasts to be a “Different Kind of Musical”, is for you!
The new musical aims to answer the question, “What happens when the stories from our youth wont fade or flicker?” Doing so through the story of Boy, a troubled child who’s only escape from the dark and scary world are through his slight obsession with colour and the fantastical tales his Grandmother brings to life. Using shadow puppetry, marionettes, projection and a custom designed rod puppet we see Boy grow from a sorrowful kid with a confusing family life, to an unhinged young man who’s haunted by the ghosts of his own psyche… I think.
The sad truth is I don’t really know. The plot seemed to remain in the same stagnant spot for the entire two hours, fifty-five minutes (yes, I said two hours and fifty-five minutes!)
From the moment the show began I was transported to a dark and dangerous world, reminiscent of the works of Tim Burton. Big dark eyes, dull grey and black costumes, a beautiful Bankura puppet and an impressive set that makes you feel as though your’e looking down the long dark void that is to come. It had the air of Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events, and being a fan of that scary surreal style, I was very excited.
These promises fell short and I found myself with a numb behind and a lack of sympathy for the new piece of writing. In terms of story, its all over the place and if asked ‘whats it about?’ I’m not sure I could answer. I get the feeling that the three writers (Adrian Sandvaer, Ragnhild Kristoffersen & Gabriel Owen) had the dark and classic style in mind beforehand, and put together an ill fitting story around it.
Not only did the book hinder itself, but the music seemed to slow down the pace of the piece. A song in a play should occur when words can no longer express the emotion in the narrative, and I wish someone would have just told me what the heck was going on!
Putting aside the plot for a moment let me say that the fault of the piece lies solely with the creatives and a thousand miles from the small cast of eight, who were vocally sensational (even without a tune to sing). Not one person let the side down, all very slick and being totally watchable as well as a joy to listen to throughout.
Particular mention must go to Anya Hamilton who plays a Mother on the edge of a nervous breakdown with fragility and passion. And also to Bethan Maddocks who played Grandmother with a fox fur over her shoulder and a delicious twinkle in her eye. Zac Hamilton (Boy) has to be mentioned for his facial expressions, which entered Drag Queen territory!
Ryan Duncan’s direction is resplendent yet simple. There was, however, a moment in the show when shadow puppets are used behind a white sheet with a projector, which had the potential to be very beautiful, could you not see how it was all being done straight through the sheet. Duncan’s direction teamed with James Houlbrooke’s choreography felt a little bit like a school nativity play in parts.
Like every piece of theatre, it all comes down to the writing. There was no light in the darkness – just more glum and woe, that was not earned. You can never attempt to make someone cry without first making them smile, and unfortunately the piece felt a bit like a musical version of Sarah Kane’s ‘4:48 Psychosis’ set in a children’s nursery.
The show sticks under your shoes for all the wrong reasons, and I left the theatre deflated and unmoved. All fur coat and no knickers is the expression that comes to mind. The ambitious musical has masses of potential and a style that kills, but is sadly void of any real depth.
Reviewed by Jimmy Richards
Photo: Silhouette Films
Fables For A Boy plays at The Lost Theatre until 24 April 2016