by Nikolai Gogol adapted by Nicky Baylis.
Little Angel Theatre 24 Dagmar Passage N1 2DN To 18 March 2013.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 March.
Full of sound and fury.
Up from Bournemouth comes Carnival of Objects with this new version of Nikolai Gogol’s typically grotesque tale of an official whose nose detaches from his face and parades around town in self-important isolation, showing all the savoir faire, especially with the ladies, that the nasally deprived Major Kovalyov can no longer command.
It’s told through puppets of which Carnival of Objects can be proud. From the major, his dashing maturity wiped blank with his flattened face, to the crowds seen in animations or on placards, this is visually vibrant and detailed. All the dirt and supposed magnificence of Gogol’s backward Russia is evoked by the detailed features of the half-height body puppets (feet attached to those of their human operator, arms controlled by rods).
As part of the Little Angel’s ‘Firsts’ season, this is new work – though not brand new, as it was seen in Bournemouth last autumn. And it has some way still to develop. For one thing, it’s too fussy. A Punch & Judy booth stands on stage, with the quarrelsome couple making several interjections which clog the story, and there are too many moments when matters seem to come to a standstill. Clever, or supposedly clever, lines are added that hold-up the narrative pulse.
Then there are the human performers. It’s often the case that good puppeteers aren’t particularly adept actors. The best human voices here are the ones used for general chatter, often relating to the painted placard groups. Individual characters are too ponderous and in what I suspect is an attempt to generate a sense of character there is often lack of clarity and an artificial delivery which soon becomes predictable and wearisome.
A trio of musicians collectively called The Cabinet of Living Cinema provides well-characterised interventions, these can refer to folksong, or, anachronistically to Tchaikovsky ballet and the melodies of silent cinema.
So there are strong aspects and an individual style. The Carnival has thrown in everything it can think of; now is the time to start stripping-out what’s non-essential clutter and aiming for a clear line that addresses, rather than bombarding, the audience.
Judy/Mrs Osipovna/Crowd of People/Floral Cascade of Ladies/Policeman/Woman/Bird/Fish: Nicky Baylis.
Punch/Nose/Doctor/Crowd of People/Dog/Policeman: Neil Gibbs.
Major Kovalyov/Bird/Crowd of People/Dog: Caine Stanton.
Ivan Yakovlevich/Clerk/Policeman/Floral Cascade of Ladies/Crowd of People/Judy: Melanie Wood.
Musicians: The Cabinet of Living Cinema – Jack Maguire, Kieron Maguire, Rob Parkinson.
Director: Nicky Baylis.
Designer: Brian Heggarty.
Lighting: Dave White.
Animation: Charlotte Caetano, Mark Stafford.
Puppets: Nicky Baylis, Melanie Wood, Caine Stanton.
2D Puppets: Mark Stafford.
Costume: Holly Tomkins, Nicky Baylis, Melanie Wood.