Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Old-fashioned and pleasing to the eye, this play that has some beautiful and humorous moments, yet as a story it lacks tension.
The actors stand in a row, in front of four cardboard homes caught in perspective, their windows showing light from within on a stage bathed in a golden glow. They begin a story from an excerpt called ‘Dandelion Wine’ by Ray Bradbury, about a town in Midwest America where a serial killer named The Lonely One is on the loose. The story is told mainly by Lavinia Nebbs (Rachel Farr), with the other actors playing multiple characters and manipulating shadow puppets and light. As Lavinia and her friend travel across a ravine to the cinema and back, the killer is never far away.
The art, sound and set design are very good and richly evocative. There are many intricately made figurines with moveable parts, my favourites being a grandmother on her rocking chair and a man smoking a cigar, with wafting smoke on a stick. Light and shadow effects are created using torches and perspective. The shadows of trees and figures projected to the actors bodies; a young boy becoming a threatening presence and a simple yet highly effective moment when tiny lights are held in the air to denote police car headlights as the women walk away.
In terms of the script however, it is quite stylised and noir-ish in character and this sometimes sounds over-stylised when narrated as part of the action. The acting is uneven, with some parts read with too much tension, and other times too little. The plot is also formulaic and doesn’t really go anywhere, with the ending rather an anticlimax. The direction is okay, but perhaps one of the problems overall is that one can not really visualize the murderer very well. Apart from a moment in the cinema, and another in the ravine, we don’t really get enough of an idea of him. And I think the creepiness could have been enhanced with dimmer lighting, and better and more physical acting. Because of the weakness of the story the scenes become a series of aesthetically pleasing set pieces.
Due to the slow pace there was a real lack of energy and I did not care for the characters. Rachel Farr, who also adapted and directed the piece, does not manage to convey the tension in the text. It is a shame I lost interest in this play as the premise is intriguing and the design excellent. The actors do a great job of creating the atmosphere, but as a whole it feels quite tame due to low energy and slow pacing.