Freak Show at the Roundhouse
Produced by second-year Theatre Practice students at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, the Accidental Festival has returned to the Roundhouse for the third year in a row, aiming to “take risks and present fresh ideas to a diverse audience”. In the case of Noisemaker Production’s Freak Show, the former may be somewhat true – the latter certainly isn’t.
Freak Show purports to “follow the stories and secrets of the most iconic freak performers in history,” all the while “set in the macabre of a Victorian circus”. This intention was certainly clear from the outset, with the cast making a fine first impression in the Roundhouse’s dungeon-like Dorfman Hub. Entering the hub via dim stone passageways, one was greeted on all sides by what (at first) felt like a menagerie of exciting vintage circus acts, scored by a playful and lilting quartet of live vintage music hall piano, violin, cello and clarinet. Quickly however, the weakly sewn pieces that made up the performance lost their charm.
The audience were waiting restlessly to be entertained, more confused than enchanted by the “immersive” theatre experience that met them in the round of the Dorfman Hub. After a Ringmaster’s speech the cast broke into song, segueing into the first of the acts. Each segment essentially comprised a song courtesy of a “Victorian freak”. Acts such as The Unbreakable Abomination and Little Miss Thimble briefly spoke their piece before launching into song, something that – especially when set in such an evocative era – could well have been enough. Sadly, Noisemaker failed to achieve any sense of continuity, with the entire performance feeling like a mere excuse for the actors to sing their little piece then move on, the company having seemingly forgotten about drama.
The music was awash with missed opportunities, hookless meandering and painful reprisals. Furthermore the songs went on too long, and were lyrically irrelevant. The score reflected the entire piece’s main failing: the absence of a reason why the cast were doing the show. If their aim was merely to entertain or capture a bygone era, they barely scratched the surface, practising singing when they should have been juggling or the like. Conversely, the piece wasn’t convoluted enough to have been called experimental. Youthful and full of amateur gusto they may be, but one does expect better from an institution like the Roundhouse.
The Accidental Festival 2013 is on at The Roundhouse until 12th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the festival’s website here.
Watch a promotional video for Freak Show here: