“Masterfully performed with moments of brilliance”
Les Enfants Terrible are old hats at making great theatre, with many awards and accolades to their name. On paper The Vaudevillains sits right in their sweet spot of immersive, stylised, historical storytelling – so do they land the killer blow with this one? Almost.
Framed around the murder of the music hall owner before the start of “the show”, the compere (Oliver Lansley) declares that it must still go on, and each of the acts is then introduced and invited to plead their innocence through skit and song – in old fashioned music hall style. It’s a simple concept and powerfully delivered, but, disappointingly, not particularly unique or innovative.
It’s only when the skits start that creativity and individual talents come to light. Each character’s back story is complex and engaging – showing great writing on Lansley’s part – and it’s enjoyable getting to know more about each one. All performers play supporting roles in each of the other’s stories, allowing them to demonstrate their seemingly endless individual skills as performers. My favourite characters are the Cerberus Sisters (stripping Siamese triplets), given their unique characteristics, while for me the standout performer is Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, who gives a simply stunning rendition of her song as Mephisto –a real highlight.
Overall the skits are funny, bawdy with a good variety from the loud and brash to the whimsical and mysterious and everything in between. The pace keeps it entertaining without dragging, and despite being quite fragmented, the show has the sense of being a real team effort. Tomas Gisby’s score also deserves credit – he’s created some great stick-in-your-head songs that stay with you long after the show ends.
After the skits are complete, one expects some sort of Agatha Christie-esque finger-pointing and deduction in order to work out “whodunit” – indeed, I feel that this is what a lot of us were waiting for. However, when the big reveal occurs, I am in no way surprised by the outcome, and let out a small groan at the lack of creativity shown in this respect. I feel that this part of the show lets down the rest, and more work could be done to beef up the suspense.
Overall, The Vaudevillains is masterfully performed with some wonderful moments of individual brilliance and great storytelling along the way, but it is perhaps just a little obvious.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 14 August)