Devisors: Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway, and Alexander Scott
Reviewer: Christie-Luke Jones
Little Bulb Theatre’s little cast is quite possibly the most unswervingly joyful group of people ever to draw breath. Ever.
Beresford, Conway, and Scott shine with the warmth of a 1.21-gigawatt spotlight that dazzles and delights the post-work punters draped contentedly over the beautiful M. C. Escher-like structure of the Battersea Art Centre’s open-air Courtyard Theatre.
The show is a gleefully self-aware melodrama from start to finish. A tongue-in- cheek ode to Victorian London, Extravaganza Macabre is the maelstrom-like tale of two tragic lovers whose journey to wedded bliss is beset with a cavalcade of exquisitely farcical obstacles.
Dominic Conway is the wide-eyed, floppy-fringed groom-to- be. ‘And I shall play the lover!’ Conway exclaims, with all the squeaky fervour of a pimply-faced playground Casanova. Conway is quite obviously having the time of his life here – he leaps and bounds around the stage like he’s walking on hot coals, eyes bulging out of their sockets and beanpole legs tensing as he screams to the heavens in comedic lament.
His lady love, played with genuine warmth by Clare Beresford, is faced with an equally ridiculous gauntlet of misfortune. Beresford whirls and screams with an intensity and presence reminiscent of
Miriam Margolyes’ scenery-devouring performances in Blackadder. And when she’s not bellowing to the balcony, Beresford sings with a honeydew sweetness that floats down through the thick layers of farce to still the belly laughs and woo the doe-eyed audience.
Putting the Macabre in Extravaganza Macabre is the bristled and booming Alexander Scott. Where Conway delights with gesture and physicality, Scott excels with linguistically rich, playful monologues and hilariously over-the- top articulation. Scott’s dastardly Victorian villain is so hypnotically entertaining in his loquaciousness that it’s impossible not to fall in love with him too. Scott is also a highly-skilled improviser, bouncing off the audience with an agility and ease that has every set of eyes in the Courtyard following him as he glides between the rows like The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Packed to the brim with original songs, costume changes and audience interaction, one of the show’s key strengths is the fact that it never loses the stampeding pace of its opening minute. Extravaganza Macabre is a lean, exhilarating piece of comedic theatre that, largely thanks to the passion and exuberance of its superb ensemble cast, never gives the audience time to detach from the delicious absurdity unfurling onstage.
The cast also makes great use of the unique design of the Courtyard Theatre. A highlight is Conway dangling precariously from an open window dressed in a deeply unflattering Victorian Maid’s outfit.
Yes, it’s silly, but the grinning audience gobbles it up. Elsewhere, Beresford’s street urchin alter-ego pops up on the balcony, Scott lurks menacingly behind the back row and a plush dog hovers angelically above a rooftop. It’s 360 degrees of ridiculousness and has everyone twisting and turning in their seats like excited children driving through a safari park.
Extravaganza Macabre is the theatrical equivalent of jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool on a
blisteringly hot day. It’s a breathless experience and will selfishly demand your complete attention for the entirety of its 70-something minutes of unadulterated fun. Silliness at its very best.
Runs until 29 July 2017 | Image: Alex Brenner