It is always a joy to experience a show full of energetic, rich storytelling and seasoned with a generous helping of genuine fun. Riddlestick Theatre’s The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé is one such show.
Kate Stokes plays the eponymous Madame Fanny brilliantly, striking a fantastic balance between a name-dropping, well-to-do socialite and a good-natured humanitarian who stands up for the little guy. Stokes’ Fanny is “worldly and wise” with a cornucopia of tales to tell – a heroine for adventurous little girls.
Fitting five stories into a one hour performance is a task not easily achieved, but Riddlestick do it with ease. The audience is invited to hear these tales as we reach into Madame Fanny’s cabinet. Each item pulled from it comes with its own story; the fact that the stories could come in any order gives the evening a delicious sense of excitement. Each tale is as tall as the last, and each with a dedicated cast of larger than life characters: mad scientists, girl-hating pirates, devious French guitarists with magic, thieving fingers. Despite the relative shortness of each foray into the cabinet, every story feels fully considered and full of depth.
As if Riddlestick hadn’t already given themselves a large enough undertaking, the whole show is also underpinned with music. Thomas Manson and Sophie Jackson’s music gives the show an extra layer of life. The songs are varied and extremely catchy – most especially a little ditty sung by the girl-hating pirates about the reasons for their hatred; and a beautiful folk number that could be argued to be Madame Fanny’s theme song. Manson, Jackson and Alison Cowling make up the three-piece onstage band, more often than not playing while in character.
Chris Jones and Ashley Scott round off the company, lending their voices to the rather yummy harmonies in the songs, and their bodies to the more ridiculous aspects of physical theatre present in the show – not to mention a plethora of characters themselves.
This six hander is the stuff of dreams: an energetic outing that, despite its ridiculousness, feels grounded in the truth of its performance. It is a show that requests a certain level of energy from the audience, in return for the energy that pours out of it, and it is fully deserving of that retaliation.
So, reach into the cabinet, tell a monkey to dance, slap a scientist. Take all you can from this show, because the cup Riddlestick offers with this show truly does runneth over.
The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé is playing The Pleasance Theatre until 23 March, and touring until 6 May. For more information and tickets, visit the Pleasance Theatre website.