You know you’ve had a great theatrical night out when, the following day, you find yourself singing songs you’d heard the night before. And repeating lines delivered in funny accents that made you laugh. And talking about the scary bits. And the funny bits. And the magical bits. And the couldn’t-quite-grasp bits.
So driving to work singing There’s no Business Like Show Business and All Things Bright and Beautiful this morning transported me back to Big Telly’s production of Melmoth the Wanderer by the Irish author (and great uncle of Oscar Wilde) Charles Maturin.
Maturin wouldn’t recognise his own work, however, – I don’t think Kelis’ Milkshake was mentioned in the original 1820 novel – but he would be equally thrilled and perplexed by what writer Nicola McCartney and director Zoë Seaton have done with his work.
Modern audiences have loved Melmoth on its month-long wandering across Ireland (and Glasgow) and it’s the pity of live drama that is can be so ephemeral, once its done, it’s done, though this production deserves the kind of longevity the central character has.
The play has everything.
Melmoth à la Faust, has sold his soul in exchange for immortality, international roaming and hypnotic charm. (No, it’s not about Cliff Richard).
All Melmoth has to do in return is tempt others to the dark side and there is no shortage of applicants, listed in the programme as “people on the edge of despair, like the sane guy locked up in a madhouse, the illegitimate one hidden in a monastery, the gullible couple promised a huge inheritance,” and then, out of the blue, “he meets an innocent, happy girl, who’s grown up alone on a desert island and believes her father is a tree … only one of them will survive.”
All presented by five eejits who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with different stories unfolding like a Gothic Canterbury Tales, with all kinds of theatre, physical, tragic, absurd, comic with a touch of ballet, all wonderfully intermeshed to tell its moral tale.
The comedy was hilarious, the scary bits were, well, scary while the opening of the second half, where Melmoth meets the wild child, was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen.
Everyone involved in this, BIg Telly’s 25 anniversary year, should puff out their chests with pride. from the actors – Shelly Atkinson, Colm Gormley, Dennis Herdman, Claire Lamont and Keith Singleton – to the unseen creative minds behind the masks (John Wright), the life-size puppets, the sound, set and costume design and everyone else. (Buy a programme for the credits, they’re only £1.)
Oh, and there’s some audience involvement.
So there you have it. Melmoth the Wanderer is a night of total theatre and and an unforgettable experience.
* Melmoth the Wanderer runs until Sunday 25 March with shows at 7.45pm, plus two matinee shows at 2.30pm
on Saturday and 3.30pm on Sunday.
You can book tickets by telephoning 028 9038 1081 (Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm)