A Note of Dischord

Mon 12th – Sat 17th August 2013


Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 13:33 on 13th Aug 2013



The line that sums up this play entirely is the whispered words of one particular audience member during Theatre Paradok’s production of ‘A Note of Dischord’: “I don’t know what’s going on but it’s awesome!” And that’s exactly what it was; completely baffling, full of scientific and literary references that even the extremely cultured Edinburgh Fringe audience didn’t understand, over the top and, ultimately, awesome.

The piece centres around the scientific discoveries and advances made during the Victorian era, a disgruntled Lovelace (Noah Tomson) and a slightly batty Babbage (Jodie Mitchell); they argue, sulk and pout their way around a plot in which they come to blows over Babbage’s use of his new scientific inventions to quell the arts, particularly music. With appearances from such stock figures as Brunel (Chris Kozlowski) and Byron (Evelyn Ryan) it is no wonder that ‘A Note of Dischord’ is a production that makes extensive use of the artsy Fringe audience in order to make frequent and on-the-mark jokes about the pomposity of scientists and mathematicians, who think they are so much more important than artists, musicians and, of course, the dreaded actors.

Aside from the incredibly puzzling plot lines, the outlandish make-up and amusingly Victorian costumes, complete with flying-goggles, mean that this play is a roaring success. Whatever confusion the script created was forgotten in the face of such committed performances from all, and made great by the array of outlandish instruments and methods that were used to create the sound effects. With a noise almost reminiscent of Dr Who, we were dragged into this fabulous sci-fi world of invention and madness which made us wonder how on earth humans managed to make it this far in history without blowing ourselves up.

This play was an odd mixture of being so intellectual that nobody got the jokes, and so ridiculous that it made us laugh any way. Fun and silly, a trip that felt not unlike the mythical effects of absinthe wherein one sees mad and intriguing shapes and creatures, this play made use of many, many, what I would call in-jokes. Byron’s daughter, Lovelace, was seen to be drunk on the mead of poetry, and all the scientific nonsense left many of us scrambling for meaning. Nevertheless, the slapstick and the sardonic mingled to create a humour that was suitable for all, and definitely left many of the audience in stitches.


Theodora Hawlin

at 13:46 on 13th Aug 2013



Adapted from Sydny Padua’s webcomic series '2d goggles' it’s unsurprising that ‘A Note of Discord’ is a visually stimulating piece of theatre. Director Jeni Cumming clearly has a strong vision for this show and it delights. An aesthetic feast; Charles Babbage’s hair alone deserves praise, a white blonde mass that appears to defy gravity.

A surreal dystopian future awaits us. What happens when you put mathematicians in charge of security? Rather than solving crime, Babbage (Jodie Mitchell) concentrates on what he deems a more pressing issue: street music. The idea of suppressing the creative spirit gives way to amusing commentary on the Fringe itself with Babbage crying "Damn you Fringe!" for the creative influx that the festival causes. The journey sees a collection of surreal interchanges that only seem fitting for the bizarre steam-fuelled world. Evelyn Ryan manages to resurrect Byron as a keen baker, ensuring Ada Lovelace (Noah Tomson) remains "intoxicated by the demon poetry" against all odds.

Babbage plans to eradicate music and all its accompanying creativity from the streets, attempting to create a future in which creativity is quenched. He’s a Dickensian Mr. Gradgrind transported to the surreal setting within the steam punk genre. Facts, facts, facts are reproduced in Babbage’s reliance and love of numbers, only the sounds of calculations are heard in the streets of his ideal, a future that looks dark and bleak.

Sam Irving, Jonathan Blaydon, and Evelyn Ryan shine as the multipurpose chorus, transforming in and out of character with ease. I particularly enjoyed the surreal sounds they produce towards the back of the stage, and Blaydon’s facial expressions are worthy of a show of their own. Chris Kozlowski’s vibrant Brunel lights the space up from the moment he enters, top hat wearing and cigar toting, he appears as a saving force for street music.

Similarly the rebellion led by Isabel Palnistierna’s chuckling Organist impresses. Delicately pulling at invisible strings, her fingertips lead on those around her, transforming men into mere puppets. Every move she makes from the twitch of a finger to her mask like smile—which remains plastered to her face—remains graceful. Even when pushed around she lands continually with poise and purpose. She is both collected and comical ‘Drag me out of this wooomb’ she cries clambering through the back of a chair, egging on the surreal: :Babbage may not understand music but he’ll understand monkeys" She steals the show.

Theatre Paradok’s desire to be "experimental without being exclusive" might just pay off. However, the surreal speed of this story may make you fumble, so don’t be too upset if you lose thread of what’s going on.


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