The Librarians

Fri 2nd – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Eliza Plowden

at 18:59 on 12th Aug 2013

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An original play about a group of deranged librarians who haven’t seen daylight for decades, 'The Librarians' is filled with black humour and literary puns. The Minotaur Theatre Company keeps us constantly on our toes, creating a surreal atmosphere through a combination of narration, song and puppetry. The show opens with the rhythmical clapping of books and gradually turns into an a cappella chant, accompanied by mechanical, zombie-like movements and glassy-eyed stares. The story is extremely simple: the evil Mandrake Hardbach (Harry Denniston) will stop at nothing until he becomes Chief Librarian of Tinderghast Library. With the help of his clumsy sidekick, Dicky (James Gault), Hardbach sets to work killing everyone who stands in his way.

The plot may be simple, but the quirky play is entertaining nevertheless. Each character is different, and their eccentricities are generally well conveyed by the cast. Michael Clarke is amusing as the Chief Librarian, Burbage, who literally ingests literature, and Clarke also demonstrates his flexibility in other roles. Lexus Bulge is one of the most amusing characters, believing the library is a pet shop and dragging books around on leads, although Harry Smith could have perhaps made more of the role. The rest of the performances are humorously over-exaggerated, making the show fun for both actors and audience. Denniston does this the most successfully, maintaining his role as the deranged, caricatured protagonist throughout.

Lewis Garvey deserves recognition as both writer and director of this absurd show. ‘The Librarians’ is largely very polished; the actors skilfully catch books that are hurled across the stage and the choreography is well timed, particularly in the movement of hand puppets. The creepy characters are reminiscent of wind-up toys, with unnaturally red eyes, hollow cheekbones and jerky, doll-like movements.

The pace varies throughout; the assassination of the many Burbages is fast and darkly comical, whilst the slow-motion fight between Hardbach and the book monster creates some suspense. Similarly, a remarkable energy is created by Garvey’s intelligent script, which consists of rhythmical quick-fire speech and alliteration, as well as moments of soothing narration. It is bursting with literary references and puns, “flying Chaucer” being one of my favourites, though the overabundance of clichés becomes tiring after a while.

Although the story dwindles slightly towards the end, the Minotaur Theatre Company pulls off the performance and comes back with a punchy final song. ‘The Librarians’ is fantastical and fabulous, provoking much laughter from adults and children alike. If only all libraries were this exciting...

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Rose Bonsier

at 13:22 on 13th Aug 2013

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Wonderfully original, full of hilarity, and acted with the most incredible energy, 'The Librarians' is a dark comedy just as it should be. You might initially think, as I did, that the life of a group of librarians in a battered old library is a rather wacky topic to focus on – let’s be honest, I’m not sure I can see it as the next 'Waterloo Road'. I was worried it had the potential to be a little bit dry and boring, but how wrong you can be. This charming and novel play is packed with brilliant gags, alongside being visually exciting and showcasing some great acting.

The fundamental plot-line of this tale is that long-standing librarian Mandrake Hardbach (Harry Denniston) wishes to overthrow the line of succession to Chief Librarian in order to steal the much coveted position for himself. Denniston plays the evil and smart, but altogether a bit weedy and socially awkward, villain with absolute precision. The other performances are all just as excellent, with the individual characters - or caricatures - shining through in an incredibly entertaining way.

My favourite characters have to be the duo that is Tabatha Trout (Poppy Pedder) and Prunellope Pollock (Emily Holt), who play a couple of very fittingly typecast librarians. They are horrified at almost everything, pushing their glasses to the bridges of their noses in appall at low-cut tops, and doing their best to ensure that the mountain of library rules (which amount to about as many as there are books) are followed.

There is even some fantastic puppetry, with several actors working together to create a giant monster that prowls the dusty library shelves. The design and creation of this beast alone is striking, but is just another example of the immense imagination that has gone into creating this piece.

Devised from a short story written by Lewis Garvey, and also directed by Garvey himself, this is a really clever piece of new writing on an obscure concept that has translated to the stage remarkably well. Every detail had been considered, and from the set right down to the finest details of the costume, the whole production could be considered nothing short of extremely impressive.

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