Clockwork Canaries by Christopher William Hill – The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Directed by Luke Kernaghan, this new play was a lovely completion of a circle for TRP. Kernaghan was the first resident assistant director for the theatre and has now returned to direct a show in The Drum. During his time at TRP he directed one of Christopher William Hill’s earlier plays with our Young Company. Lots of connections coming together! I really enjoyed seeing the fruits of the theatre’s emphasis on developing talent.
The show was right up my street as well. Dark, unusual and funny, with some stellar puppet work. The play is set in the town of Schwartzgarten, a fictional location seen in William Hill’s novels. On one of the nights that I saw the play there were some young fans of the books in the front row, giggling delightedly at every reference to Schwartzgarten specific products.
The play is ostensibly about a family. Maximillian Dressler (Dominic Marsh) and his daughter Tatiana lead lives surrounded by death, literally, in the form of the pet cemetery attached to the house. Tatiana herself (played with charming girlishness by Charlie Cameron) is obsessed with the subject, imagining her ideal tomb and drawing gravestones to decorate the house. This should set the scene for how odd the Gothic world of the play is. The pair welcome a new cat into their home, the catalyst for even stranger events. The cat, given the fancy moniker of Count Frederick Sebastian, is brought to life by puppeteer Richard Booth and it steals the show in several scenes (as does the puppet dog he also operates, it’s so cute!). The cast is rounded off by Jeremy Ang Jones playing a delivery boy fond of implausible disguises and Chris Staines who plays the flamboyant Mrs Steinhoffelman and several other characters. The staging is incredibly complex involving multiple speedy costume changes and some ingenious set design. It’s such a fun spectacle to watch, bright and full of life despite the dark themes of the story. It’s laugh out loud funny at times and genuinely creepy at others.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Go see!