Freakshow - Review

On reading the pre-production publicity about a show devised through a collaborative process involving the cast and the creative team led by production playwright, Anita Sullivan, one could be forgiven for anticipating an evening of over extended egos performing for their own rather than the audience's pleasure. Happily such fears proved groundless for Freakshow proved to be a weird but wonderfully entertaining and funny evening.

Through improvisation at rehearsals and workshop sessions, a show has evolved that utilises speech, music, dance, ventriloquism and shadow puppetry to tell the story of a collection of freaks in a travelling sideshow. As well as seeing them as part of the show, the audience learns how each of them ended up there, through a series of touching monologues.

The staging of the play, with the technicians in full view of the audience, whilst operating mobile spotlights and the shadow puppets, along with the musician seated on stage, ought to have produced a Brechtian alienation effect that destroyed the magic of the theatre but it did not do so for this member of the theatre, at least.

The piece raises many questions, some of which are answered whilst other are left to the audience's interpretation and imagination. The message of this allegorical play would appear to be that it is the past that has them trapped as freaks and it is only after the past is confronted and accepted can they find freedom.

Each member of the cast displayed considerable talent. Marina Norris was impressive, having to switch characters repeatedly as Clarity, the freak with four personalities. Her monologue was particularly moving. Louise Gregory demonstrated her vocal and comic skills as Izzy, the Siamese twin whose other half she voices through a foul-mouthed doll. As IT, the deformed creature, Paul Wilson managed to convey tremendous pathos with his facial expressions despite his hideous make-up. Equally, strong performances came from Brandon McGuire, the clown who could not cry, Izzy Aidallbery, the fairy who could not fly and Katie Scarfe, the mysterious and sinister Eve.

A work of this sort only goes to demonstrate that the NVT is not afraid to accept challenges and to be original. This team were prepared to be adventurous and if, at times, something did not quite come off, then they can be excused for their boldness.

Barrie Jerram