The Terrible Infants [FringeTIX]
Les Enfants Terribles Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch
11:30am, Wed 22 Feb 2012
I emerge from His Ghostly Heart out into the heat, and spot Martin in the queue; we chat, we gossip, we head inside and split up. The small stage of The Arch has clusters of… something to the left and right, covered in grimy sheets; there’s a suitcase at the back of the stage. The music that played as the audience entered subtly increases in volume, and without me really noticing it’s become quite loud; suddenly the house lights cut out in time with the music – it’s a jolt that immediately snaps me into the world of Les Enfants Terribles.
A spotlight singles out the suitcase: an arm appears, then a body. A man purrs across the stage telling us of Tall Tales, shedding the sheets to reveal a small wagon to the left, a two-person band to the right. The book of Tall Tales is used to introduce Tilly, whose story creates the backbone of the performance.
Tilly tells tall tales, and from there other stories spring. There’s the story of Tumb’s Tum, in which Tumb eats his Mum, told with great use of umbrellas and a tuba, Tumb’s huge head wonderfully realised using large hemispherical domes; there’s the gorgeous puppetry that describes Little Linena, a true material girl. The poetic poignancy of Thingummyboy (The Boy Who Wasn’t There), some sublime shadow puppetry, and the sprouting of Tilly’s tail (a testament to her tall tales) keep the show ticking along.
Throughout, the presentation is immaculate: the elaborate costumes, sumptuous musicianship (roaming over the viola, tuba, piano, clarinet, guitar, accordion, etc), and perfect blocking of the multi-function wagon provides wonderful support to the central stories. The tightness of the space in The Arch works well for the constraint of the piece – unfortunately, I was sitting on the starboard side of the room near the wall, and the acoustics – with the band directly in front of me, and sound bouncing off the wall to my right – weren’t great. One of the guys (the third of the principal storytellers, who occasionally played the tuba) didn’t project that well, either – I’ve got a feeling that a more central position would’ve alleviated all of these problems, though.
But those little aural niggles cannot discount the fact that Les Enfant Terribles (I can barely speak it’s listed title) is a super-polished – and super-entertaining – affair. It’s a superb demonstration of how this sort of refined presentation can deliver a thoroughly rewarding experience, without having to be hidden beneath layers of gloss.