Review: Crocosmia, Battersea Arts Centre
Another week, another award-sweeping Edinburgh show at the Battersea Arts Centre. Where Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea proves an accomplished debut reliant on a strong, original concept well-applied but under-interrogated, Little Bulb Theatre’s Crocosmia is an accomplished debut lovingly crafted from microscopic details into something simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking.
At first glance the Brackenberg family seems a tightly-knit, quirky unit with the sort of chirpy romanticism usually reserved for Disney films. Quaintly resourceful and imaginative, the children – Finnley, Sophia and Freya – gnaw goldfish from carrots and learn to trim shaving-foam beards with razor-fingers, while their parents revisit Paris via an overhead projector. However, such idiosyncratic wholesomeness disintegrates once we learn that the Brackenberg children were orphaned in a car accident.
Accordingly, perspective slides and the children’s actions slip from kooky to coping mechanisms. The nauseating niceties of their parents become the mistaken whimsies of a child’s eye view muddled with faint, fond memories. Finnley, Sophia and Freya – played faithfully, delicately and fidgety by Dom Conway, Shamira Turner and Claire Beresford – seem caught between simultaneous pressures of maturity and regression. Indeed, there is something totemic about their taking on the parental characters; a notion furthered by their devouring of Battenberg cakes used to represent the choicest of family memories in the inspired Brackenberg Battenberg Puppet Theatre.
If that all sounds cutely sentimental and overly intellectual, Crocosmia balances itself out superbly through a constant sense of muted mania. With surrealist snippets such as ‘Freya Knows Best’ and the “Superfishy Underwater Orchestra”, director Alexander Scott has imbued the rhythm and energy of a television magazine show, accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack that manages to combine precision with seeming arbitrariness. Furthermore, the use of language of display is delightful. Sentences stumble and stagger clumsily creating such childish gems as; “Before you shave the beard, you must first have the beard.”
All in all, Crocosmia marks Little Bulb Theatre Company as a company to be watched with the beadiest of eyes. It is a petite, fragile and beautifully original piece of work that will set the sturdiest of chins aquiver – even as it raises a pursed smile. Utterly enchanting.
Photograph: Little Bulb