Camden Fringe 2013
Heads Bodies Legs is advertised as a dark comic Dadaist thriller set in a sinister private hospital. None of this is ever in question, but this show offers so much more than it says on the tin! Surreal and absurd in nature Heads Bodies Legs begins in an ordinary hospital room where we meet Jon Price (Giles Coram). Prices’ soul is taken without permission and he is catapulted into the strange hospital underworld, left to fend for himself and this journey leads him to meet many a strange character along the way. This show requires the audience to be quite on the ball and so embracing the absurd is important.
Combining animation with live theatre can be tricky and on the fringe the lack of budget can prevent technical aspects from being the best they can be. Not so in the case of Heads Bodies Legs. Sally Stevens’ quirky and appropriate animations are well matched to the theatre of the piece. They add a great additional layer to the design and allow an audience member to be caught up in the world of the hospital, forgetting now and again we are in a black box theatre space. With limited budgets achieving this requires excellent storytelling skills, something writer Ezra Elia has in spades. There is always room for improvement and with a bit more budget and a made for purpose theatre space these animations could be refined and add even more to this already unique and inventive piece of theatre. In saying this, Heads Bodies Legs has the best costuming I have seen on the fringe and certainly better than I have ever seen in any Camden show in the last 5 years. Hannah Wood is definitely a costume designer to watch and one I would personally hire in a heartbeat. Her attention to precise detail and the effortlessness of how everything fits together so seamlessly is an absolute joy to experience.
Giles Coram plays the charismatic and confused lead Jon Price. Though early in his career Coram is easy to watch and his engagement with the character and with the play as whole ensures the entirety of Heads Bodies Legs is sewn together tightly. His character is definitely the protagonist and is certainly at the heart of the story however he manages to play it just right so it feels more like an ensemble piece. Other stand out performances come from Eleanor Jones who applies just the right amount of crazy to her nurse character and Clare Buckingham who is quite spellbinding to watch as Jon Price’s white jumpsuit clad soul.
There are many scene changes and this is generally my pet hate however I found myself regularly giggling during them because the actors never came out of character and made excellent choices while moving furniture and props to the point where the scene changes became just as important as the piece as a whole. Credit to Director, Ray Malone for creating what is normally such a mundane, dull necessity into a fun experience.
Director Ray Malone and writer Ezra Elia have been collaborating on this show for over two years and this echoes through the whole production. Originally this piece stemmed from a number of sketches and it is very clear work and time has gone in to refining and shaping the piece into a full length play. Though there are still moments where there is a slight loss in traction on the journey of some characters, overall this is an excellent example of what shows during the Camden fringe should deliver.