For far too long the theatre goers of Manchester and Salford had been denied the opportunity to witness many of the excellent productions that have graced the Edinburgh Fringe and of course our glorious capital city. Shows ablaze with colour and shrouded in darkness in equal measure. Shows with elements of vaudeville, burlesque, dance and song from a bygone era of music hall.No finer example of this is likely to be found than in tonight show, brought to us by the excellent theatre company Les Enfants Terribles with their latest colourful tapestry of music, mayhem and madness - “The Vaudevillains”. They are already becoming seasoned veterans of the genre with previous productions “The Terrible Infants” and “Ernest and the Pale Moon” winning for them awards, critical acclaim and new fans in every corner of the world.
For tonight’s performance the Quays Theatre has been transformed in appearance by the introduction of a cabaret style table layout, enhancing the atmosphere of the ‘murderous’ music hall setting that we are about to enter.From the moment our compare and his dark and sinister collection of music hall misfits enter the stage the witty and fast paced script coupled with strong and inventive musical numbers ensure that you are never less than totally engaged in the performance.
As we are still marvelling at the appearance of the cast assembling before us we are launched into a ‘whodunit’ with a difference as the owner of The Empire Music Hall – ‘Champagne Charlie’ meets his untimely death before the curtain has chance to fall on the opening number – “Tonight At The Empire”. What follows is a series of ‘flash – back’ sequences that paints with vivid detail the gloriously bizarre background of each of the suspects and the dark and deadly secrets that lurk in their past. Secrets known to Charlie, therefore giving every one of them good reason to want him silenced.There’s ex-butcher turned knife thrower Ray the Blade and his glamorous assistant who before the show even started had sat amongst the audience and delivered a couple of one-liners even sharper than his deadly throwing knives.
The visually outrageous and totally wonderful Cerberus Sisters - a set of sexy conjoined triplet strippers! Tragic and terrifying ‘bullet catching’ magician – The Great Mephisto. Albert The Frog - a gloriously manic and schizophrenic ventriloquist ably assisted by his wooden partner in crime Mr Punchy. Mime artist extraordinaire Gaston Gasteau whose command of the technique had the audience glued to every move.
Bonding all of this together and delivering a tightly structured and wonderfully entertaining show is writer and artistic director Oliver Lansley who, as if that weren’t enough, also gives a stunning performance as the compare of the show, delivering his lines with brilliant comic timing and performing as if his life depended on it! All in all a wonderfully original and entertaining slice of
Les Enfants Terribles return to the Lowry with new production – “The Infant” in June. I for one can’t wait!
Review & photos by Shay Rowan