Review: Extravaganza Macabre, Battersea Arts Centre

From Little Bulb Theatre comes Extravaganza Macabre, a mock-Dickensian romp that parodies Victorian melodrama and keeps the audience in fits of giggles from start to finish.

Packed with energy, physical comedy and even original songs, the play provides a welcome dose of silliness for your typical weekday evening ennui. Performed in the quirky open-air courtyard of the Battersea Arts Centre, with rain unpredicted but “heinously plausible”, it is a perfect London summer night out.

In essence it is a tale of “villainy and valour in Victorian London”, a story of love and loss, heroism and evil. Narrated hilariously by Alexander Scott, it tells of two tales that both begin on one fateful day in 1886 on which a freak storm strikes in London, and havoc ensues. A baby is spotted floating along the Thames on a piece of driftwood, separated from its parents in the storm. He is rescued by a passing drunk who deposits him at a nearby orphanage- but not before noticing a peculiar London-shaped birth mark on his side. Meanwhile, two infatuated lovers are due to be married by the riverside, when the groom (Dominic Conway) is swept away by the fierce tides. His devastated bride (Clare Beresford) spends the next seven years grieving her lost love, never giving up hope that the sea may have spared him.

The cast of three are positively bursting with energy, evidently revelling in the unpretentious whimsy of the production and their roles. Each demonstrate notable dramatic skill, all playing a minimum of two roles and a conveyor belt of instruments throughout the production.

Beresford depicts both the forlorn maiden-bride and our young artful dodger, seven year old East London street urchin alone in the world except for his faithful canine companion, Dog Dog. Her performance is enthusiastic and charming, but her exceptionally lovely singing voice is possibly her best asset: it’s purity pierces the farcical production and brings an element of sincerity that is quite welcome.

Conway is unfalteringly funny as both the wayward groom and the shrill clairvoyant nurse who tends to Beresford in her time of grief. Scott provides the element of ”macabre”, acting as both the narrator and Lord London, an embodiment of evil. Each actor gives it their all and transport the audience effectively.

It must be said that the humour is often slapstick, bordering on panto at times – the audience certainly chorused an answer at one point or another – which may not be to everyone’s taste. However, the script is witty and sharp, and the belly laughs elicited from the audience spoke for themselves. One not to be missed.

Extravaganza Macabre is playing at the Battersea Arts Centre until July 29. 

Photo: Alex Brenner