Whodunnit? Feral Productions with wit and a wealth of weapons in Hereford Library (From Hereford Times)
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Whodunnit? Feral Productions with wit and a wealth of weapons in Hereford Library
12:03pm Wednesday 23rd May 2012 in Leisure
THE one thing you can expect heading into a new work by Feral Productions is the unexpected and with Dead or Alive, the Tragic and Untimely Death of Fyodor Karamazov, you won’t be disappointed.
What marks this new site-specific piece out from previous Feral productions is a noticeable switch of mood, with humour coming to the fore, a large dose of slapstick and inventive characterisation by a cast of six - and live action and music replacing the pre-recorded soundtrack played on headsets that had become something of a Feral trademark.
Inspired by Doestoevksy’s The Brothers Karamazov but in no way an adaptation, Dead or Alive turns to the Seven Deadly Sins as a motivational framework for a fast-paced romp through a tangled web of relationships and a rapidly escalating body count. Pithy and apposite observations plucked from literature punctuate the action, delivered by a supporting cast wearing, of course, trenchcoats to emphasise the fact that this is a murder mystery with no shortage of suspects.
Another brilliant script from Megan Barker, imaginative staging by Estelle van Warmelo and Nick Smithers that makes maximum use of a venue with no previous theatrical experience, and a great sense of fun has everything zipping along. And, of course, that cast of six, playing a cast of many more with multiple character, gender and costume changes and plenty of conviction, with further layers of mood and sense of place added by live music by Rab Handleigh.
In conventional theatre there are frequent - and irritating - longueurs sets are changed, but the beauty of a site-specific piece like Dead or Alive, cleverly staged to maximise the potential of the library’s layout, is that those clunky scene changes are absent. Instead, the audience is gently herded to the next scene, a device that ensures continuity and a sense of involvement, and maintains the suspension of disbelief.
A big element in the Feral ethos is the commitment to doing extraordinary things in ordinary places, and with Dead or Alive they’ve maintained an enviable record for transforming familiar sites into something entirely other, and using the library (and Booth’s Bookshop in Hay as they will during festival week) with its thousands of books, creates a fitting backdrop for a production with great literary origins. Garrick House car park has never seemed quite the same since Feral Productions staged their first work, Locked, there and last year’s Shattered saw the RNC transformed. With a change of approach, and no less ingenuity, the library has now undergone a similarly impressive metamorphosis.
Dead or Alive is at Hereford Museum and Library until Saturday, with performances tonight, Wednesday, at 8pm, and at 8pm and 9.15pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. To book, call The Courtyard box office on 01432 340555 or go to courtyard.org.uk. It can then be seen at Booth’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye from May 31 to June 9. To book, call Hay Festival box office on 01497 822629.