Brighton Fringe 2016
Each year Jane Bom-Bane and her creative family, make a new musical that takes over her beloved venue for the month of May paired with bespoke food curated around the musical’s theme. This year it is Bombanimals – an animal themed fantasia featuring every nook of the building that Jane lives and works in including the toilet and the kitchen. It is up close and intimate, with a ramshackle aesthetic and a high calibre of musicians, cooks and performers hand delivering you their produce.
There are 5 in our party which constitutes a full house. Greeted by Jane, we are whisked up three narrow flights of stairs for a private tour. I am here with two friends, One 50, one 8 years old and we quickly get acquainted with the other pair in our gang. We barely manage to squeeze into each of the modest spaces with the performers who gradually accumulate and eventually out number us. In each room we meet a different animal, all of whom must sacrifice a beloved item in order to find their authentic voice.
A mild lion is all curled up in a terry towelling onesie on a bed. He is gentle, cuddly and kind of happily emasculated. His roar is evoked by tugging on a piece of string pinned to a snare drum which, creates an un-impactful rumble.
Hand spun, playful and light, Bombanimals swerves generously to the left of being twee via deft use of metaphor, sophisticated musicianship and gentle anarchy. In one room there is large papier-mache elephant made by Tom Walker. Tom also wrote the text Jane sings: a poem reflecting on elephants as ruminants both in diet and emotion, then at the end alluding to the idea that we all have many rooms with elephants in them in the modern day. One room-in-eight (ruminate) in fact! And the tilt of the metaphor gets a ripple of appreciation from the audience.
The whole thing is created using spit and sawdust, found materials, hand sewn costumes and a general vibe of abundant creative opportunity borne of welcome limitations. Everyone has multiple tasks and generously applies themselves to everything. This is no economy of finance, it is absolutely and very finely an economy of love.
There is incredible attention to detail but nothing is perfectly formed. We are privy to the rough edges and behind the scenes become the scenes themselves. A fox who will sacrifice something very precious indeed to the collective good, is preparing us dinner in the kitchen that we will shortly be sitting down and eating from. The ending is a bit haphazard and feels like an afterthought, but this doesn’t somehow detract from the delight of the whole as by this point we are so intoxicated by the spirit of generosity and joyful chaos that it doesn’t matter.
My two friends enjoyed it hugely for different reasons. The delicately packaged (and for me, delicious) Oisseau Sans Tete was somewhat lost on our eight year old friend (we couldn’t sell him on the idea that what he was eating was basically a burger, only better!?) however this was a small detail in an evening of fascination and wonderment. I asked him for his review and he said ‘can we do it again?’ which sums it up really.
I am reminded how important the audience is – because without us there is no point. Also about how hand made, living art like this can connect us in a very real way to community – Jane, and each of the performers, has a personal relationship with everyone who comes through the front door. We want to belong here for a while to this eccentric hand-stitched queendom.
And if there is a message to be had, it is a light one, but touches on the notion that if we love someone, giving a piece of ourselves is a risk, but can pay off one hundred fold. if we trust, be generous and let go… something like that. And a plea maybe for the ongoing existence of this kind of intimate, real time, unrepeatable experience, where the value to each of us is so much more rich, raw and indescribable than the price of a ticket.