Call me naïve but, not knowing anything about the play before I went, I was genuinely surprised to see a hanging man on stage – a real man, in a real noose just, well, hanging throughout much of this 90 minute production.
The set is a partly completed cathedral where the architect decides to kill himself, but when Satan refuses to take him he is left alive, but still hanging. The play concerns the effect this has on people (the bishop’s reaction is particularly satisfying) and their view of him changing from fear to wonder, idolatry and abandonment, with general contemplation on the meaning of life and death thrown in for good measure.
Improbable Theatre more than live up to their name and the reputation garnered with Shockheaded Peter. The play starts with a group of surreal masked figures who come together to tell their story and the action moves in true IT style from funny to horrific in an instant. The group employ an array of visual and physical tricks in the performance and the set is a multifunctional wonder belying its apparent simplicity. The cast also seemed to improvise on several occasions which added to the enjoyment and the brilliance of their communication.
However, I missed the live musicians who were such an integral part of Shockheaded Peter. Budgets permitting, The Tiger Lillies, or anyone else, would have been preferable to taped music, but this is a minor niggle in an otherwise great evening. Improbable Theatre doesn’t just put on plays, they take a true delight in storytelling and this event is a superb example of the primary purpose of theatre.