Little Eggs Collective makes the ‘niche’ universal

SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE

Little Eggs Collective

★★★★★

A physical theatre piece named after an orchestral composition may seem a little ‘niche’ – perhaps devised for a classical music audience, perhaps quite narrow in scope. The opposite could not be more true, here. With the energy of a session at Barry’s Bootcamp and the varied excitements of a Mardi Gras parade, Little Eggs Collective realised an undeniable ‘hit’ with their enthralling SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE, directed by Mathew Lee and assistant-directed by Eliza Scott, and produced by Julia Robertson and Madelaine Osborn, all of whom it seems are so talented that not a moment of the show subjected its audience to the slightest boredom.

Over the course of forty-five minutes, a formidable ensemble comprised of Lloyd Allison-Young, Cassie Hamilton, Clare Hennessy, Nicole Pingon, Annie Stafford, and Chemon Theys interact with the theme of excessive ego and entitlement, represented by Hector Berlioz, played by a committed and skilful LJ Wilson.

Photo by Patrick Boland

Behaviours exhibited by the ‘problematic protagonist’ Hector, (Wilson) induce the sting of familiarity: at an early point in the show, the self-important conductor demands vocalisations from encircling musicians (played by the ensemble), clicking at them cruelly; ensemble members are actually cut off mid-vocalisation by the hubristic conductor, before Wilson takes on a countenance of both irritation and astonishment, because one of the ensemble members does not immediately perform when clicked at. This turn of events converts into a seduction scene, as the composer appears to be either titillated by the insubordination, or intent to make a conquest of the rogue musician. The musical setting proves a useful vehicle for demonstrating how abuses of power evolve, as we observe the imbalance between conductor/composer (superior) and orchestra or ensemble (collectively subordinate).

Whilst well-portrayed instances of the show’s ‘ugly’ themes made for a moving experience, there was also no shortage of humour: Chemon Theys’ impeccable physical mimicry of a plodding farm animal (coached by Grace Stamnas) and LJ Wilson’s fantastic drag performance of Brenda Lee’s ‘I’m Sorry’, set off much laughter.

Lighting Designer Benjamin Brockman’s layers of night club-esque strobes and torrents of flashing colours imbued suitable amounts of psychedelic chaos into the aura of the ego-fuelled artist. Costume Designer Aleisa Jelbart may have made her opus (although there is undoubtedly awe-inspiring work still to come) in the vibrance and nuance brought to all garb, which was both visually stunning and ostensibly simple enough to perform a physical work in.

Photo by Patrick Boland

Oliver Shermacher’s contribution as musical director was arguably the ‘make-or-break’ aspect of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE; the up-and-coming theatre-maker and prominent clarinettist rose to the pressures beautifully, weaving parts of Berlioz’s 1830 work through dance beats and tightly-delivered ‘chorus numbers’. Beyond composing and arranging for short sections, Shermacher stretched through the entire performance a richly rhythmic and highly sophisticated musical landscape that both maintained our attention, as well as catering to the various emotional energies of the story.

Little Eggs Collective successfully highlight the problem of abuse in its lightly-veiled and strange forms. We are reminded of a well-documented tension that persists in the arts: the like of Hector Berlioz still hold power, in different forms and to different extents. Arts companies, performers and audiences continue to argue about what is and isn’t appropriate, whilst also questioning who should be listened to, and when. What can we excuse in the name of art, and what can we excuse from a ‘great’ artist? We are divided.

An enormous success, SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE realised a highly diverting piece of theatre, whilst contributing to an important discussion. Discerning theatre-goers can expect only better and better from this company, which already have a track record of brilliant theatre-making.

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