A life-sized cardboard Elvis, a garish flashing golden crucifix and a bubble-blowing angel Gabriel overshadowing the Madonna make for a combination I never expected to see on stage. Little Bulb Theatre’s Operation Greenfield is a hurricane of a play, which tosses a big handful of randomness in the air and invites us to sit back and watch the resulting debris.
This is theatre at its most bizarre, a fact obvious from the opening with a over-enthusiastic rendition of the prophecy of Isaiah. The plot is simple yet crazy; a teenage Christian band setting out to win the village talent competition. They have a plan – the staging of the Annunciation complete with angel wings and their own song, ‘Zachariah in the temple’. The only problem? The trials of adolescence. Dreams of lesbian kisses, imaginary conversations with Elvis, and the temptations of smoking and teenage love all throw themselves at the band as the play progresses.
The show has an almost television-like quality thanks to its sheer exuberance and constant frantic action, something like a happy-clappy Christian The Inbetweeners with an uplifting soundtrack. The acting is persuasively endearing with its portrayal of teenage awkwardness. Lines are yelled, wide-eyed and startled, and we are drawn back into the self-conscious adolescent world where intense fixations on such trivialities as Elvis and talent show contests seem quite believable.
For me, though, Little Bulb Theatre pushed the surreal a little too far in this show. An hour of silliness may have been acceptable, but at eighty minutes the sheer weirdness and sunny mock-innocence began to grate towards the finale. A tighter, shorter show may have maintained Operation Greenfield‘s youthful appeal.
Still, what emerges from the carefully constructed chaos is an accurate portrayal of village-bound Christian adolescence. The sheer randomness may have been a little overpowering, but what we can take away from the show is the warmth from collectively revisiting our growing years. Little Bulb Theatre has succeeded in creating an evocative image of the innocent yet bizarre nature of teenage life. It is a play which entertains us with its comic exploration of young faith, baffles us with its sheer craziness, and ultimately entices us with the nostalgia of teenage friendships.
Operation Greenfield marked the opening night of York Theatre Royal’s Takeover Festival, an event which sees the theatre run by people under twenty-six. A bold choice of opening show, Operation Greenfield is an interesting start to what promises to be an excting two weeks of theatre.
Operation Greenfield is part of the Takeover Festiva at York Theatre Royal. For more shows and events see the website here.