Brighton Fringe 2014
"Cabaret with a story to touch your hear and to stir your senses". Chris Cresswell (Voodoo Vaudeville) directs a cast of dancers, acrobats, actors, singers and, mostly, clowns, in a piece of cabaret-theatre based around a traveller, struggling with her suitcase, lost in the places inbetween.
Chris Creswell’s Lost in Transit has gentleness about its comedy compared to the brasher efforts of its predecessor, Voodoo Vaudeville. Cresswell is developing a sly subtler form of cabaret cum comedy where the influence of Jacque Tati is much in evidence. The bemused heroine, buffeted by megaphones and bureaucracy is an appealing heroine.
The eastern European acrobat troupe, about whom we are continually warned by the deep avuncular voice of the stationmaster, are scruffy and delightfully shambolic. They’ve been milling around on the platform all day. So we get comic acrobats with social comment all in one.
At one stage a hapless audience member is asked to help a porter with an enormous pile of suitcases get up on the stage. The actor and the stationmaster (over voiced by Chris Cresswell) give the situation time to emerge into comedy. Finally He stoops to make a step, the porter turns to… and that masterful voice again “Stepping on the passengers is not allowed”. So the audience member gets up, he tries to help the porter; he ends up holding all the suitcases! All in all it was a beautiful piece of improvised comedy – and hats off to Cresswell and the actor for letting this situation develop of its own accord, without forcing it or rushing it.
We enjoyed the gentleness of some of it, Cresswell is taking a step back and making this slower comedy work. There’s also a narrative here – just enough to keep us interested and wishing the central character well as we wanders and stumbles through a dreamscape travelverse. The clowing is woven into that narrative and allows the grotesque to mingle with the more traditional circus clowning of juggled suitcases. The aerial work felt a little repetitive in places and there’s scope for further development here.
A lot is packed into this production. There’s plenty to see and savour yet the central character as anchor, aided by a few guiding comments from our audio announcer keeps us on track, even if those tracks playfully warp and verge from the expected route. If you are expecting a tight show, you’ll find it in parts, but you’ll also find permission to improvise taken by the characters. This is a show for a Spiegeltent and part of its success is about claiming that place, holding it confidently, even when it is packed with a late evenning audience. Cabaret meets theatre, circus meets narrative and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
There’s potential here to develop the show further, to experiment with the aerial work particularly and to ensure that our immersion in the dream qualities do not befuddle us too much.
What we have, in this early stage of the show’s own "transit" is a warm heart pulsing at the centre of a cabaret-theatre playground that allows a talented cast to range through comedy, intense theatre, filmic atmopshere, and circus that serves the piece and never detracts from it.