Old Sound Room (US) | MC Theatre, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Fringe 2014)
Old Sound Room from New York perform a selection of short stories by Neil Gaiman (a big factor in my choosing this show) framed by October taking the chair and delegating which month may tell a story. The setup should be clear: a campfire with various characters who then embody the roles in the tales as they’re told, simple. However, for the first fifteen minutes it was chaos. Four performers dash around supposedly becoming different personalities switching from one grotesque to another, repeatedly sawing the air with their arms like musical theatre vs Pantomime. It was noisy, messy and frankly looked amateurish. But after the first story finished it toned down and unraveled nicely. The use of props was generally good except for a prop sausage that lasted five seconds while an actor mimed a cigarette throughout (?) and they used an almost good looking puppet of a black bird that had a ridiculous and unnecessarily large base, which contrasted against a much better looking Phoenix (that was dismembered and pulled apart.)
I’m being a bit picky because the first impression wasn’t a very good one, but they genuinely found a good pace that was changeable and energetic. Gaiman’s material kept most of it in check and they realised the mood for each story well, choosing a low-tempo darker piece to close with. The show resembles traditional storytelling modes, loosely founded on commedia and farce, while Gaiman’s campfire scene creates a solid environment (when it’s performed well.) It lacked the narrative voice of the original story but it has great potential for play and works across young and adult audiences and the ensemble were clearly having fun.
Earlier this year Gaiman collaborated with Graphic illustrator Eddie Campbell to present his story The Truth is in a Cave in the Black Mountain (which was great!) showing us that good storytelling can simply be to read to an audience (it was like ‘story time’ for adults and harks back to a more primitive entertainment,) but if you were to adapt his work to stage, Old Sound Room’s approach captures the playfulness while still needing to be tidied up a bit.
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