Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea @ BAC, London

cast list
Suzanne Andrade, Esme Appleton and Lillian Henley

directed by
Suuzanne Andrade
1927 have had a while to perfect this peculiar show. It had a successful run in Edinburgh this summer, where it picked up a Fringe First Award, and has toured considerably before making a welcome return to BAC.

They say the devil is in the detail and that is literally true here. The entrance to the theatre has been delightfully designed by Insect Circus to resemble a large diabolical mouth.

Once inside, usherettes sell sweeties and gingerbread men along with the programmes; and things begin with a short performance by flapper duo The Bees Knees before the production proper gets underway.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea takes the form of a series of unsettling vignettes. Many of these are reminiscent of the fairy tales of Central and Eastern Europe, in which inquisitive children coming to messy ends; the devil pops up quite frequently. One sequence sees a gingerbread army rise up against the pastry chefs until the streets run red with raspberry jam, while the most sinister and effective sections feature black clad twins who speak in perfect unison and whose parents perished in an unfortunate wishing well accident.

This delightfully macabre stuff is delivered in clipped, emotionless voices by the white- faced performers, Susan Andrade and Esme Appleton with Lillian Henley providing piano accompaniment.

What makes this production so memorable is not so much the writing though there are some twisted turns of phrase but the wonderful way that it blends onstage action with filmed footage and animations, by Paul Barritt, projected on the screen behind the performers. The various elements are all very clever and entertaining in their own right, but it’s the harmony between the performances, the music and the imagery that elevates this production into something really special. The performers’ movements are precisely aligned with the projected images creating a distinctive visual collage. These projections frequently echo the world of silent movies with an added dash of Todd Browning and Tim Burton and a sprinkling of David Lynch.

The most obvious comparison is probably with Shockheaded Peter, but this is a production that treads its own idiosyncratic path. Towards the end there’s a nicely executed bit of audience participation and the whole thing is wrapped up in just over an hour. It’s very funny in a particularly black, warped way and while it’s true that there’s a whiff of style over substance to proceedings, when things are this stylish that’s really not much of a complaint.

1927 are a talented company and this is an inspired piece of theatre, a wonderfully wrong, seasonally inappropriate treat of a thing.

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