You don’t expect to sit on stage in the Studio of Bristol Old Vic when watching a performance. You don’t think you’ll see an apple in a glass on your small round table. But tonight we’re here for Twisted Theatre’s Death and Treason, Rhyme and Reason, where a lot is familiar. But then it isn’t.
The creators of this piece, Hannah Martin and the cast of 5 we see before us, have taken popular nursery rhymes and explored their dark, historical origins, which they share with us musically, through song, ditty and poem. The stage we share also houses a set of drums, a viola, a violin, a cello, a glockenspiel (what is that moving underneath throughout the performance, anyone know?) and a microphone for each member of the cast. Children’s toys scatter the floor, mingled with cider bottles.
Nursery Rhymes. We’ve known all this since we were children, haven’t we? Ah, but not like this; this is for adults.
Yes, I’d heard of the provenance of Ring o Roses and Mary Mary, Quite Contrary before but never in words so sweetly melancholic, never with voices so powerful (great harmonies), never through musicians so accomplished. Nuala Honan can really belt them out and her delivery of Jill’s texts to Jack, a comedic and ever so sad modern interpretation of Somerset folklore, is possibly my favourite part of the show. Though that could be matched by Pop Goes the Weasel‘s drudgery of an everyday working life (“Just because it’s no longer 1805, doesn’t mean things have changed” – I paraphrase), led with power by violist Emma Hooper.
There is a dab of glitz here and a more than a glimmer of rough. Glamour and squalor. Fun and horror. The performance would be suited to a pub/music venue (in a jazz style) as much as a theatre. More, probably. Which is why we’ll likely go and see it again when it comes to the Fiddler’s Club in October!
Death and Treason, Rhyme and Reason is at Bristol Old Vic until 10th May
– Review by Becky Condron