Brighton Fringe 2011
Sparkle and Dark spin a web of tales around a young girl entering a shop of wonders.
The Clock Master
The Marlborough Thestre
28th May 2011
I’m aware this production comes with an impressive track record. Sparkle and Dark’s The Clock Master tells and shows the story of a wilfull young girl who enters a shop full of wonders that becomes the occasion for some well crafted stories, creating an imaginative landscape that becomes a journey of discovery for the girl.
Visually the production is beautiful, cloth backdrops are evocative of traditional story (And depict the tales we are about to be told) and here we have an authentic traditional story colour design – soft pastel shades, and no fluoerscent attempts to please the television generation. We are drawn in, drawn into a world that feels historicl and yet somehow it is our own world too. The Clock Master is a strong character, more than a match for the stubborn child. Several tales unfold. And it is all impressively laid out.
A clock-work girl is brought to life impressively. The accompanying music enhances the piece and reminds me of Edward Wren’s use of music in River People, with less folkiness.
Three tales nestled in a story – it is strongly written and structured as theatre-storytelling.
The weakness lies in some of the vocal delivery, which is too much parked in the upper register. Voices are far too throaty, often high pitched, bordering on shouting. This young cast need to get into their lower range, to explore vocal modulation and the power of silence. The Clock Master lacks "masterliness" and that would make a big difference to this as powerful story performance. He needs to step much more into the skin of the character and either clearly attempt to play it older, or play it as his own age which would require a significant reworking of the character portrayal.
Physically the piece is of a very high standard, props are well used and the puppets are innovative and competently executed. But some of the evocation and magic is lost in vocals that lack texture. The Clock Master delivers script pretty well with clarity and commitment but he needs to inhabit the role much more, and be more subtly physical about it.
One small point: modern television references (e.g from ‘Allo ! Allo!’ are out if place and degrade the atmosphere.
The three tales are well written, laced well into the linking narrative. Set, props, costume, music, puppet design – all very fine indeed. But they can go further on the basic skills of character, voice and depth.
I’m unsure if this is a group at the limit of their abilities as performers, or falling short of their potential. I suspect it is the latter. The Clock Master has been very highly reviewed elsewhere. On the basis of this particular show, there’s room to lift it in terms of vocal quality. But it’s still recommended as an enjoyable and imaginatively staged piece of story theatre. The stories are still well-crafted gems. But a good cast can do better.