Carnival Of Crows

Fri 3rd – Fri 24th August 2012

reviews

Davina Moss

at 03:57 on 6th Aug 2012

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Wide-eyed and mischievous, Molly Beth White’s Poppy takes her audience on a weird and fantastical journey in an intense forty-five minutes at the Free Sisters. A bold new one-woman show, White uses a Tim Burton aesthetic to conjure the carnival in which her character inhabits.

Her performance is astonishing; every flicker of the eyelid and hitch in her voice contributed to this wonderfully creepy, darkly comic creation of Poppy, the ‘Laudanum Girl’, who seemed both worldly and innocent all at once. The melding of the mundane and the ridiculous in her narrative was disconcerting, and the giggling ease with which she discussed gruesome and hideous acts of violence gave the play a sinister undertone. The progressively confusing tale placed Poppy in the role of unreliable narrator and the audience became less and less certain of the line between reality and fantasy. A top hat and the audience’s imagination form Edward, the Carnival’s leader, and White’ deftness became apparent in her skilled manipulation of the creature. Strange tangents from the tale introduced a host of other figures formed by delicate, mysterious puppets, all adorned with gothic-style lace and veils to give an ethereal tone to the proceedings. Working with a principle to confuse and surprise, the puppets and Poppy herself came with unexpected twists which we discovered along the way, and the slickness of the writing and performance kept the audience in a perpetual state of anticipation and confusion. One really doesn’t know what will appear next in the ‘Carnival of Crows’.

Creepy lighting and eerie shadow contributed to the general atmosphere of the show and clever use of sound recording and progressively more threatening music helped set the scene both literally and emotionally. The sound design carried the viewer to the harsh streets of London and took us to that most elusive place, Poppy’s mind. Yet twisted and scary and worrisome as it was, by the end of the performance the audience wished to be there too. The Free Fringe is not always a winner, but ‘Carnival of Crows’ is worth the donation pennies in spades.

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Joel Singer

at 08:04 on 6th Aug 2012

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This one-woman show, though at times slightly too strange and macabre for my taste, does present an intriguing and kooky piece of theatre, which is a good demonstration of the purpose of the free fringe – to allow plays that are just too obscure to be performed at the main festival. This twisted, incredibly dark work is great for anyone looking to find an alternative side to the fringe.

The performance takes place in the informal and cave-like back room of the Free Sisters pub, a perfect setting for an exploration of the strange underworld of a Victorian carnival. Using puppetry, and very intricate yet disturbing story-telling, the show is definitely enjoyable. The spacey and energetic character of Poppy, a brilliant invention by Molly Beth White, is endearing and expressive, using her charming voice and a range of innovative puppets to provoke an emotional response in the audience. The show is billed as a comedic exploration and while White’s impressions are, for the most part, sharp, it often seems more creepy than funny. The material ranges from the mundane to the ridiculous with lines like “arms full of arms” and referring to someone recently deceased as looking “bloody awful” but all is given a soft and light touch by the incredibly talented actress.

The play is memorably haunting and the very image of Poppy will remind you of any clown phobias that you may or may not have had and though the performance must be congratulated for its eccentricity, sometimes it is pushed too far and enters the realm of confusing or too bizarre.

An original, quirky show that will not fail to provide surprises and push the boundaries of bad taste jokes. If nothing else, you can enjoy the thoroughly entertaining and talented presence of Poppy and a fringe show that is genuinely completely different from everything else.

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