Theatre Reviews: Wail & The Beanfield at Battersea Arts Centre
Little Bulb Theatre strike gold yet again with this infectiously enthusiastic lecture – with songs – about why whales sing (and why humans wail)…
It takes some imagination to target a show at that place in the Venn diagram where a love of whales meets a penchant for lo-fi musical comedy theatre and avant-garde puppetry. Trust Little Bulb – they of Operation Greenfield, Squally Showers, and Orpheus – to go for it so wholeheartedly and with such gleeful abandon that only the most cold-hearted of whale hunters could possibly be anything less than elated by show’s end.
Tonally much closer to Squally Showers than Orpheus, this is Little Bulb playing it geeky and goofy – there’s a whiff of Look Around You about the way the show takes the form of something akin to a public lecture – albeit a lecture with plenty of laughs and an incredible playlist!
The ridiculously talented Clare Beresford & Dominic Conway are your hosts – one has seen a whale, the other hasn’t – leading you through an hour of whale-related facts old and new, through the medium of endearing conversational chatter and magical songs. Expect melodic folk, guitar noodling, booming timpani and maybe – just maybe – a very special guest performance…
The climax is a textbook example of how to build the audience up to a point of euphoric celebration – the only bad thing about Wail is that it couldn’t just carry on for the rest of the evening!
A captivating subject and an intelligent combination of live performance and video can’t quite dispel the feeling of an opportunity missed.
Breach Theatre’s The Beanfield is a frustrating experience: engaging, informative and thought-provoking and, for the most part, convincingly and engagingly performed.
The juxtaposition of video footage – of an attempt to stage a historical reconstruction of the 1985 Battle of the Beanfield – alongside the live performance – relating an experience of the 2015 summer solstice at Stonehenge – is a success. The two ‘stories’ are, of course, indelibly entwined, and the two halves of the whole are entirely complementary to each other.
The ‘problem’ comes at the end, as an attempt to bring things to a pulsating climax fall flat. An hour of brilliant work is undone – although by no means completely – by the feeling that there’s a final act out there waiting to be found. As The Beanfield arrives into its final moments, there is suddenly – from nowhere – a sense of work-in-progress, almost as if no-one can quite work out how to wind things up.
Until that point, the performances – both onscreen and onstage – are excellent. There is a feeling that these are inquisitive, sensitive minds trying to make sense of senseless cruelty and violence – perhaps now, thirty years on, a futile yet eye-opening endeavor.