THE FIREBIRD by Neil Duffield. Lawrence Batley Theatre to 29 December.


by Neil Duffield

Tutti Frutti Theatre Company at The Lawrence Batley Theatre To 29 December 2001
Runs 2hr One interval

TICKETS 01484 430528
Review Timothy Ramsden 18 December

A vibrant Christmas show in Huddersfield, mixing myth and theatricality to fine effect.Two things have changed; last year The Firebird was a colourful but tame Christmas entertainment across the Pennines. And the previous Tutti Frutti Christmas show I caught was an elegant but stark piece that demanded great concentration before it gave any reward to its audience.

Here Duffield’s version of the Russian tale acquires a new zip, while artistic director Niladri brings the action forward on to a deep thrust stage, giving a whirl of colour – literally in the dancing, flame-stream effect Firebird – and allows audiences some of the expected Christmas-time involvement.

The story follows Ivan, the Tsar’s apparent failure of a son, in his dangerous search for the gorgeous Firebird which has been stealing golden apples from the Tsar’s prize tree. Imprisoned first by the sorcerer Katschei then by the witch Baba Yaga, the Firebird’s an elusive, and dangerous target. Ivan’s only friend is a lone Wolf whose toothless state he cures, and who goes on to lead the audience in a three-part rap – audience participation with attitude.

Villainy’s largely female and falls on the shoulders of Joanna Booth, who gives the ogress Baba Yaga a delightful toothy menace and provides a comic edge to the relation the crone has with Vanka, her guardian, wannabe singing, crow.

Booth is also Katooshka, the Tsar’s sneaky daughter, who takes all the credit and doles out the blame elsewhere. No deed’s too low to help achieve her ends and Booth rightly denies her any of the audience pleasure it’s possible to take in Baba Yaga.

This Firebird’s a high-energy, visual treat. Vocally the performances don’t quite match the dramatic climaxes but it’s a colourful ride with Jim O’ Reilly’s sets and Dominic Sales’ score adding atmosphere. The mix of outer adventure and the inner journey of both father and son to self-realisation is well-balanced. Most moving is the final moment when the characters give up courtly splendour to become again the common people they were when first we met.

Ivan: Ryan Simons
Katoosha/Baba Yaga: Joanna Booth
Tsar/Wolf/Sorcerer: Stewart Thomas
Vasilisa/Pedlar: Thushani Weerasekara
Firebird/Pedlar: Jake Nwogu
Vanka/Pedlar: Emma Hopkinson

Director: Niladri
Designer: Jim O’ Reilly
Lighting: Spike Mosley
Composer: Dominic Sales

2001-12-28 11:08:54

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