I’m sure many adults would believe they were past listening to fairytales, but the Crick Crack Club is ready to prove them wrong. The Devil’s Purse is a bewitching fusion of storytelling and music that takes theatre right back to its origins, and serves as a refreshing reminder that sometimes less is more. Taking place in the intimate setting of The Forge in Camden, The Devil’s Purse’s captivating narration and beautiful music make for a magical night that will make you watch where you tread lest you stand on one of the Little People on your way out.
Narrator Dominic Kelly guides the audience through a clever multi-layered narrative, each story revealing itself like a set of Russian dolls. The framing narrative begins with Jack, a humble village boy, who falls into the trap of gambling and alcoholism. A character within this story tells another story, in which another character tells another story, and so on. Each story contains elements of the fairytale genre and ultimately reveals a moral.
The cosy setting of The Forge couldn’t be more fitting for this piece, as the audience gets to hunker down on sofas and gather, like children, around the stage to hear the stories. The set is minimal, with only a large oriental rug and three chairs adorning the small stage, but the lack of visual prompts allows the audience’s imagination to run wild and conjure up their own images based only on Kelly’s words. It harks back to the oral literary tradition, and the small space adds a vital intimacy to the occasion that a larger venue simply wouldn’t be able to muster. Kelly is a consistently engaging and energetic narrator, particularly given that there are no other actors on stage with whom he can have any kind of repartee. He really brings the stories to life, and deftly navigates the way through a multi-layered narrative that could be difficult to follow if not delivered well. The prose is lyrical and reminiscent of the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, and lends itself well to Kelly’s captivating narration.
It is the music in combination with Kelly’s narration that makes this production so special. Violin and accordion duo Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson beautifully fuse enchanting Nordic music with Kelly’s prose, never overpowering the words but complementing, accenting and punctuating the narrative seamlessly. It brings us back to the fairytale genre’s Scandinavian roots and really fills the space while adding atmosphere to the piece. Accordionist Ottosson is particularly interesting to watch, as he is so invested in the music and seems to feel every note played.
C. S. Lewis once wrote that “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again”, and the Crick Crack Club has shown that this is absolutely true. The Devil’s Purse can be enjoyed by any audience, young or old; its traditional charm is an unexpected triumph in a time of special effects and jazz hands. It proves that sometimes there isn’t a need for fireworks, and that the simplest ideas are often the most effective.
The Devil’s Purse played at The Forge until 22 June. Click here for more information.