“Roll up, roll up”. The audience enters a world of fairground festivities. Originally written by Ferenc Molnár, Liliom is a story of a carousel barker who finds love in a serving girl but that love takes a turn, and leads to domestic abuse. Liliom then sadly takes his life after being caught in an attempted robbery. This is a story of love, pain, deceit and loss. It’s really great to see how a fringe theatre company can deal with a historical play with many strong themes and bring it to life for today’s audiences. Just a few basic props, costume, lights and sounds are needed to set the various scenes whilst the actors skilfully perform to fully establish scenes.
Many times fringe shows can be treated with an air of scepticism and caution as there isn’t a large budget for the production. However, this is often a blessing in disguise as audience sizes can be more intimate and theatre companies can focus more on making optimal use of what they have. Fringe in no way should be automatically synonymised with inferior performance. The Torchlight Collective cast did a sound job in capturing the audience through drama that was intense, at times humorous and consistent. Each actor had a distinct character and gave a clear performance that was consistent from beginning to end with the odd exception of a slight change of accent in a few areas, but that’s just nit-picking.
Daniela Ologenau gave a convincing portrayal as Julie, Liliom’s wife. Ologeanu embodied the myriad of experiences that the serving girl faced, starting off with juvenile innocence, then defiance against domestic challenges, finishing off with an emotional moment with a dying Liliom. Another actor who also delivered a great performance was, Alariza Nevarez who played Hollunder, Julie’s aunt. It was clear Hollunder was a chatty photographer who often had a complaint to make. Nevarez was committed to her character and grabbed my attention through her witty charm, clear speech and repetitive body language. It is important, no matter the size of a role, for actors to give a clear portrayals of their character. All the actors in the show gave great performances with two aforementioned actors standing out most to me.
The gripping moment between Liliom and Julie was the most captivating part of the play. It was provoking, passionate and tense. I enjoyed the moments of silence which is often avoided in theatre in attempts to sidestep awkwardness, but shouldn’t be if it’s done with thoughtful intention. There does need to be a moment in a dramatic scene where the audience have a chance to absorb what’s going on and digest the drama, contemplate, gasp, sigh, possibly even have a 10 second discussion with their neighbour (we’ve all done it!). These are indicators the drama is having some kind of effect.
Great character work lays at the heart of this adaption of Liliom, another example of quality fringe theatre. If this show is anything to go by, then Torchlight Collective is definitely one to look out for. There are so many gems in fringe theatre and they certainly ought to be discovered.
Liliom played The Bread & Roses Theatre until 29 August. For more information, see The Bread & Roses Theatre website.