THE MARVELLOUS AND UNLIKELY FETE OF LITTLE UPPER DOWNING
created and devised by Little Bulb Theatre.
Tour to 13 March 2011.
Runs c1hr 55min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 February at Wingrave Community Centre.
A villages Romeo & Juliet that delights the villages.
Never mind two warring households; in Little Bulb’s touring show it’s whole villages feuding. Filled with horror-stories about the other side, adjacent hamlets Little and Upper Downing have shouted and shied at each other for centuries. And before ten minutes have passed, Little Bulb’s cast has the entire audience deriding and assaulting each other. Only the thoughtful substitution of balloons for stones prevents serious injury.
This is either very silly, tremendous fun or both, depending on what you want when you go to the village hall for drama. Certainly the inhabitants of Wingrave, in Aylesbury Vale, found it a pleasant way to spend a Sunday eve. There again, Aylesbury plays a significant role in the story – as, doubtless, does some place nominated by an audience member at each performance.
This story of prejudices overcome and loves that learn to speak their name in even the most reticent village-male mouth (the females are more forthcoming) is told by the village band. For it was folk music that healed the rift. So the story says.
The performance thrives on mock-naivety and is at its best when the actors playing their folksy characters taking on their roles in the story are most serious, combining an underlying immobility of expression with momentary, apparently inadvertent flickers of innocent consternation or surprise. It’s this that makes Shamira Turner’s Charlotte, and her in-show characters like the lovingly slow-witted baker Polly, so comic.
Without patronising her character, Turner lets the audience feel they’re a step or two ahead of them at any moment. Among her companions, Dominic Conway’s innocent dreamer of a folk-singer comes nearest to achieving this.
Kept on this tight rein, the show might have been more delirious, if probably shorter (this company could easily expand an evening with their musical skills). Unfortunately, they love improvising to audience reactions, leading to more tedious, often-shouted sections, where character detail and control lose out, and the unforgiveable sin of laughing along at ideas is committed.
With such a good line in the faux naïf, it’s a pity Little Bulb’s cast, to varying extents, spoil the illusion of innocence.
Mary: Clare Beresford.
Peter: Dominic Conway.
Seth: Alex Scott.
Charlotte: Shamira Turner.