Writer: Oliver Lansley
Directors: Oliver Lansley, James Seager
Producer: James Seager
Reviewer: Cavelle Leigh
To mark their tenth year as a production company Les Enfants Terribles return to the stage with their eponymous show The Terrible Infants, ambitiously presenting a series of children’s fables, some reimagined from old, using song, dance and puppetry. From an enchanting yet eerie place, the narrator played with camp and devilish aplomb by company founder Oliver Lansley begins with the bizarre case of Tilly, the little girl who can’t stop lying, can’t stop until one day she develops a tail nearly as tall as the tales she tells… Pig-tailed and rosy-cheeked, Serena Manteghi absorbs herself fully as the pathological fibber.
Tumb is the one who eats his mum. A grotesque papier-machê head, an oversized umbrella and just a little imagination, terrifically bring to life his greed and his grumbling belly with Richard Booth effeminate and funny as his long-suffering mother. A snippet about an odd-looking creature socially excluded for his slime and stink, but who will adamantly refuse to have a bath provides a comic yet cautionary tale about personal hygiene.
The first half is brought to a sinister close with an original take on the legend of the mermaid. Finn is a boy desperate to escape the mediocrity of human existence and live in the sea much to the chagrin of his exasperated parents, both portrayed with the innovative use of a bucket? One day his wish is granted as he is spellbound by a mermaid, though not all is as it seems, a nod here to the old adage ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Everything from the atmospheric stage design and lighting and carefully selected sound effects, to the choreography of the puppeteers, seamlessly transports the audience on an underwater adventure.
Latterly, incessant chatterbox Beatrice meets a grizzly end, with a pre-recorded narrative drily delivered by Dame Judi Dench. A musical interlude from all five talented performs shows off their versatility as actors, dancers and musicians for at once it is punchy, rhythmic, sexy and witty. Rebecca Bainbridge is notable for her energy and a rather impassioned drum solo. Christo Squier beautifully sings the saddest tale of all, that of Thingummyboy, a boy so forgettable he ceases to exist. Unseen, unheard, until eventually packed away in a box.
The ultimate anecdote about Little Linena is perhaps one too many, but nonetheless deserving. The costumiers must be commended not only for this piece but their stunning visuals throughout.
The Terrible Infants is a spectacular show in every sense. Aimed at ages 6+, it is accessible and enjoyable to adults and children in equal measure. Enticing. Exciting. Put simply a joy to watch.
Runs until 28 October 2017 | Image: Rah Petherbridge