Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Pacific Blue Festival Club (Shed 6), Wellington

06/03/2010 - 14/03/2010

New Zealand International Arts Festival 2010

Production Details

Deliciously dark and strangely beautiful, this charming theatre cabaret takes audiences on a delightfully surreal journey through enchanting, skewed and sometimes sinister landscapes.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is the multi award-winning production which cleverly combines stunning films and animation with live music, performance and storytelling. Using the aesthetic of silent film, a series of comic tales unfold in which performers interact seamlessly with multi-media to create a shadowy, but hilariously funny world.

Hapless cats, gun-toting gingerbread men and sinister twins all make an appearance in this impeccably charming creation. Winner of five awards during its premiere season, including a clean sweep of the top awards at Edinburgh Fringe, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea has achieved phenomenal success on tours to New York, Singapore and Australia. This wholly original and hugely enjoyable vaudevillian comedy is sure to be the talk of the Pacific Blue Festival Club.

“Emily the Strange meets Charlie Chaplin meets Oscar Wilde meets Nick Cave…See it!”

Pacific Blue Festival Club
6, 10-13 March at 10.15pm
14 March at 8pm
Tickets: $56

Southward Theatre, Paraparaumu
7 March at 8pm
Tickets: $45 (GA)

Masterton Town Hall
8 March at 7.30pm
Tickets: $45 (GA)

Film, Animation and Design: Paul Barritt
Music: Lillian Henley
Costume: Esme Appleton  

Celebration of the unique and unusual

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Mar 2010

In previous International Festivals it’s been the tent on the waterfront that’s hosted whacky off-the-wall type cabaret shows. This year it’s the Festival Club in Shed 6 where these shows are being performed but the draughty, non-theatre like shed with its cramped seating is inappropriate for many of these. 

Fortunately, though, most shows are short, sharp and to the point, thus minimising the audience’s discomfort, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea being one such show. A hit at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s a quirky take with sinister undertones on the silent movie era, and the company is aptly named 1927. 

The ideas for the show were the brainchild of animator Paul Barritt, who is also the projectionist for the show, and writer/performer Suzanne Andrade. They were then joined by Esme Appleton as performer and who also designs the costumes.  

In a series of surreal vignettes, unrelated one to the other, clever and fascinating animations are projected onto a screen that Andrade and Appleton then perform to, mainly through actions but with some dialogue. Every scene and interlude is expertly accompanied by Lillian Henley on piano, making the whole show appear like a 3D silent movie-come-vaudeville show. 

It has also been likened to Shockheaded Peter, seen some years ago at the Festival. Gingerbread men rising up against the pastry chef, causing mayhem till the streets run red with raspberry jam; a young girl selling herself while her parents are out playing tennis to raise money for the poor; housewives with the clap; and the sinister end to the Lodger are but some of the tales the group has cleverly and inventively put together.

Macabre and twisted yet often funny, these gothic fairy stories are told through a seamless integration of film and performance. Dressed mostly in little girl pinafore’s with white painted faces, Andrade and Appleton deliver their lines and actions with dead-pan clarity and precision, their timing impeccable as they move in and out of each film sequence. 

The similar use of animated film and performance in each of the sequences could become predictable and repetitive if it wasn’t for the twist in the tail of each story and the final sequence when the little girls, having killed off all their playmates, look for a new one from the audience.

Light and fluffy yet highly entertaining, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is what the International Festival is all about, the unique and unusual. 
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Fluffy fun hiding spikes and toxins

Review by John Smythe 07th Mar 2010

White-face is all the rage this festival it seems: Inside Out, Dancing on Your Grave and now Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. All three use classic plain whiteface, most commonly associated with mimes, except they all speak, sing or both.

My guess is that Suzanne Andrade – writer, director, performer – was raised on a diet of Roald Dahl stories, or she read them by torchlight under her sheets. Her random collection of tales have that sensibility: an apparent childlike innocence that turns twisted and nasty in a terribly British way.

It’s awfully entertaining, what with animator, designer and projectionist Paul Barritt’s wacky animations creating visual contexts and effects that are occupied by Andrade and co-performer (and costume designer) Esme Appleton, to the live accompaniment of composer/ pianist/ singer-performer Lillian Henley.

The melodrama of silent films, including early cartoons, also informs the overall style – hence (I assume) the company’s name: 1927 (marking the heyday of silent films – e.g. Metropolis). Having won five awards at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival, the troupe has globe-trotted extensively, garnering further accolades en route to NZ.

The motif that opens and closes the show has Appleton running from a villain, pumping her arms above animated cartoon legs. This, then, is escapist comedy.

Topics include women choosing the devilish over the angelic; a cat consuming its nine lives; a weird dream involving star babies, girl guides and Jason Gunn (kudos for researching and adding local colour); a lodger’s fate at the hands of two orphaned sisters; Sinking Suburbia (“Little Julie is playing homeless again…”); the day all the housewives caught the clap; The Biscuit Tin Revolution, involving an uprising of gingerbread men; My Old (monkey-faced) Aunt; The Misadventure of Frau Helga von Zetterling (I hope I have the spelling right), involving more devilish imagery; The Grandmother (who was “old as the hills and twice as green”), which purloins someone from the audience to play the role; The Devil’s Boots Don’t Creak …

While it is presented as fluffy fun hiding spikes and toxins, essays – if not theses – could be written about the social commentary embedded therein. Consider this, for example, printed in the small but perfectly formed programme (author Suzanne Andrade):

1000s of men and women … Running!
The onlooker (a small man in a cheap high street suit)
Rolls his tabloid newspaper into the shape of a cone, holds it to his mouth and hollers
“You’re all going the wrong way!”
And all the running men and women turn and run for the sea and the only person left on dry land is a cheap man in a newspaper suit with a small cone …
He puts the cone on his head and now he is king!
The king in the tabloid crown roams the land in search of a queen, lo and behold he stumbles upon a small street woman (high on cheap suits)
He rolls up the remainder of his newspaper and bashes her over the head!
Then drags her, by the hair, to a very British pub that they will make their home
They drink from the beer taps!
Smash up the fruit machine!
And then, in a sea of bar snacks, they set about procreating …
While the rest of the world flounders at sea! 

How might we interpret this? As a cautionary tale about what might happen if the lower middle class should inherit the earth?

Your thoughts?

PS: I concur with those who say the Festival Club performance venue is cramped, uncomfortable and conducive to alienating audiences, which is hardly fair on the performers.

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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