Brighton Fringe 2009
Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Emperor of China and his journey of self-understnading through the agency of a simple nightingale. Can beauty ever really be kept it a cage? Employing music, percussin, masks, hats, movement, and imaginative props, costume and set, this is a colourful, production from a talented, multi-disciplinary group.
Hans Christian Anderson’s tale is brought imaginatively and innovatively to life by Pericles Theatre. Vasile Nedelcu’s interpretation explores modern themes such as the artificial nature of technology, of recycling and of our ongoing search for pleasure, in a production that is accessible to adults and children.
The style is mostly direct storytelling, some of the set pieces are charming, the combination of harp, percussion from instruments made from colourfly decorated, recycled materials, as well as electronic sound effects, makes for an engaging, watchable feast for children and adults alike. The use of a shopping trolley for various purposes (including a carriage and a death bed) is both humorous and innovative (spinning umbrellas serve as wheels). The colourful costumes, lighting and propos enliven the whole piece effectively.
There is a lot to see and also a lot to listen to in a production that isn’t short on words and does require a commitment to listen from the audience. It doesn’t pander to the short attention span generation and contains a style of delivery and choice of text that captures the tradiitonal essence of the tale and doesn’t make modern compromises with this, though there are many humorous and sharp references to our modern age, esecially our love of things virtual and aritifical.
The music is, at times beautiful, at times just right to create the right dramatic mood. Erika Blaxland de Lange’s Nightingale is magical, and she portrayes it with deftness, holding the tiny bird with its little flapping wings, whilst giving it a lovely voice that weaves about the harp music with a rare charm.
The artificial nightingale is built from a CD player and this is a little lacking in subtlety as an observation on modern technology and artificially created music. This is a production that makes statements about the environment and about modern day technology and sometimes they jar with the rest of the show’s more subtle, quiet confidence of expression. This is a show you could see twice and observe all kinds of things you missed the first time around. It’s rare to see a fairytale presented with such a conscious freshness.
Oriental costume mixes with modern sounds and vocal delivery, there are a range of characters on offer and Chris Poynder-Mears makes a suitably pompous and emperor, supported by a talented cast whose vocual delivery and physicality ensures this tale is delivered with strength and enabling a strongly flowing narrative.
Overall this is a beautiful, well imagined and executed show, that tells an engaging story with skill and no shortage of authentic spirit. Highly recommended for young and older alike.