Brighton Fringe 2018
Co-written by Daisy Jordan and co-director Ulysses Black. The music’s composed by Kate Daisy Grant who performed on the celeste and piano, and Nick Pynnon violin and muscal saw. Brighton jeweller Sophie Saunders created the fiendishly intricate fold-out apothecary box that’s Mr Maynard’s little shop of horrible confections.
The chocolate cream mint poisoner? It’s back. Daisy Jordan and co-director Ulysses Black have stretched enchantment on a rack of puppets. And left us wanting more.
Puppeteer, puppet-maker artist and actor Jordan creates a rift in time with her hands, as she prods 1871 into existence with two children playing on a macabre tale. In fact it’s all too real, refracted here as a Victorian-toned moral tale. The mismatch of moral language, the midunderstandings and comic idiocy where the audience understand and the puppets refuse to, is of course in line with the old Punch and Judy seaside banter and batter. Less of the latter today: we’re not so keen on it. Poisoning’s so much more genteel.
Music written by Kate Daisy Grant who performed on the celeste and piano, and Nick Pynnon violin and muscal saw. Brighton jeweller Sophie Saunders created the fiendishly intricate fold-out apothecary box that’s Mr Maynard’s little shop of horrible confections.
The Christiana Edmonds’ poisoning case is famous. Conceiving a passion for the local Dr Beard who gave her ‘muscular relief’ for ‘hyesteria’ she inevitably formed an attachment to the man – hardly surprising. The back-story is of doctors given carte blanche to pleasure sexually unsatisifed women patients as a form of ministering. In other words, sanctioned sexual abuse. At the very least it’s like policemen going undercover and pretending to be what they’re not. Some women were able to enjoy the furtiveness of this. Edmonds did what many women might have done, except she did happen to be just a bit psychotic.
Edmonds reckoned it was all Mrs Emily Beard’s fault, so brought round cholcolate creams Beard couldn’t abide but his wife loved. To cover the subsequent illness as traceable to her she sent round dozens of strichnine-dusted Maynard chocolates to all the top Brighton people, and these were duly sent back to the luckless Maynard – including one from Edmonds herself. But there was only one death. A boy whom the undusecting Mr Maynard sold back a returend box at half price. And Mr Maynard initally takes the rap.
What Jordan manages with this sounds a miraculous confection, a jewel box of dark delights. It is. The celeste-domianted sinister-sweet music is like a musical box, and that’s how the puppets emerge from behind Saunders’ construction: Edmonds herself, Beard, Insepctor Gibbs like Constable Knapweed from The Herb Garden, the young children who eventually become beneficiaries of Mr Maynard’s decency, to Maynard himself. Saunders’ miraculously unfolding box with tis confections bottles and maynards shop-sign forms the cnetre piece where stage right the children paly on a beach with aperture under which Jordan controls proceedings.
It’s not just Edmonds but Maynard with his chocoalte dipped rats, attempting to catch one to thrust into some confection, and a ‘noose’ from a horse’s halter. These real names are products of Victorian gothic and authentically creepy. At a crucal point a brief interval for Puppets’ Equity (junior branche) Jordan ahnds round a small bagof Maynards for each member of the audience. Kooky but clean. ‘They’re not poisoned’ she assures us in role.
Jordan’s capacity in a high natural register to impersonate her puppets si a given. But she maanges it within a compass of enchantment.
The Sorrowful Tale of Sleeping Sidney plays on the opening with mop-haired boy and girl realling th little child in his coffin as one of the sweets avaialble, but also try to revive him. Again, with that percision of dream, Jordan brigns narrative full circle. The sky-bright Sidney himself is an appealing brief creation wth an appallinh end. Which Jorden dpares us. But for the brief veiled comments on muscular stimulation this could easily paly to children of ten up, who’d probably get the connootation anyway.
This is a gem of many colours. Do see it. The miraculous construction’s matched by Jordan’s storytelling and sense of dark mischief. In Jordan’s hands it’s a re-possession of lost innocence by a strange sleight of a knowing child.