Fables For A Boy at the Lost Theatre is, according to the programme, “A Different Kind Of Musical”. Whilst I confess that I’ve not seen that much like it at the theatre before, the grandiose tagline implies an overwhelming degree of originality for a production which is essentially a stage version of a Tim Burton stop-motion. That’s not to say it isn’t executed well, because it is, but should you attend I’d caution against thinking you are about to see a ground-breaking new musical.
Despite this, the visual aesthetic of this production is commendable. A large tip of the hat is required to the design team who have created a dark and mysterious world populated by excellently envisaged puppets, and have used clever employment of light and shadow, as well as some interesting usage of an overhead projector that took me back to my junior school days. The costuming complemented this aesthetic well, and I was pleased to see the numerous set changes were carried out by the actors who managed, with the aid of sinister masks and robes, to blend successfully into the scenes and avoid disrupting the action due to their consistent presence.
The quality of singing on display in Fables For A Boy is the other great success of the production; the eight-strong cast consisting solely of London College of Music and Rose Bruford graduates hit their notes impeccably and an impressive range of vocal styles are exhibited. They are accompanied by an orchestral score that is mostly apt to the mood of the production, if a little samey at times. Bethan Maddocks as the Grandmother is key to this show, creating some much needed colour with a performance that is on point. The other cast members fulfil their roles ably enough, though there is the occasional instance of the dreaded musical-theatre-over-acting.
Fables For A Boy is decent on the whole. If you’re a fan of a dark, brooding atmosphere and the gothic it will be right up your street, however this and a two-and-a-half hour run time does place it squarely in the niche market to my mind. The show was dragged down somewhat by its unremittingly bleak tone, and it didn’t quite manage to replicate the charm and comedy of some of Mr Burton’s finer films. A solid effort, but I think some fine tuning would be required before that tagline can be lived up to.
Fables for a Boy is playing at The Lost Theatre until 24 April. For more information and tickets, see the Lost Theatre website.