Home » Reviews » Off West End » The Wordcatcher, Blue Elephant Theatre

The Wordcatcher, Blue Elephant Theatre

Presented by Smoking Apples Theatre

Pros: The show boasts lots of very interesting and original ideas.

Cons: The actors overstretch their abilities making the show seem amateurish in places.

Our Verdict: An interesting show with some great ideas.

Credit: Jax Braithwaite

Situated off Camberwell Road in South London, the Blue Elephant is a vibrant arts venue offering a variety of award-winning, multi-cultural performances from every genre imaginable. Founded in 1999, this hidden gem has staged a huge amount of successful, innovative shows and has nurtured the talents of many young artists who have gone on to enjoy successful careers in the theatrical world.

Following the success of their production Seemingly Invisible in 2011, Smoking Apples are back at the Blue Elephant with a brand new show entitled The Wordcatcher. Smoking Apples are a theatre company formed in 2009 by three Rose Bruford College graduates. Both Seemingly Invisible and their debut show Whispers from a Wandering Tent were performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The company incorporates a mixture of puppetry, original music, movement and visual theatre in their work. The Wordcatcher is a newly-devised piece which focuses on the issue of communication, or perhaps more precisely on communicating through miscommunication.

Molly Freeman plays Emily, a beautiful young woman who has lost the ability to speak and who carries a notebook everywhere she goes in order to write down what she wishes to say. Matt Lloyd plays George, a shy maths genius who has difficulties in expressing himself socially and who has severe reading difficulties. Lloyd plays his character with considerable charm and has a very special chemistry with his love interest Emily. Both characters are well-presented and their sweetness and innocence adds great warmth to the tale. The story chiefly revolves around these two characters with a talented busker in the middle who sort of vaguely ties the story together. There are also two little puppets who share the stage with the actors – a little bird and the character of Emily in puppet form. The puppetry skills of all three actors are quite impressive. In particular Hattie Thomas, who masterfully controls the bird, bringing the puppet to life not only as a creature but also as an important character in the story.

As this is largely an abstract piece, much of the narrative is left to the imagination of the audience. The little bird and the puppet Emily are fairly undefined characters which allow the viewer to creatively fuse different elements of the story together using our own imaginations. The busker (who provides the live music) is also a character who is largely up for individual interpretation. This adds an interesting and rather magical element to the show.

The Wordcatcher is a very sweet, romantic tale from a company who are clearly full of original ideas. However, some of these ideas are so good that it left me wondering whether the show might not have been better suited to a more diverse group of performers who could realise these ideas to greater effect. A lot of the frankly unimpressive physical movement pieces within the story would have looked spectacular if they had been performed by professional contemporary dancers rather than actors with movement experience. Likewise, the music seemed to be written by someone with decent-ish musical ability rather than a professional composer. Almost every element of the show seemed to be brimming with ideas – some of which needed to be presented in a sharper, more polished way.

This show is comprised of performers who are strong in some parts but who are clearly stretching themselves too far in other areas. As a group who are very imaginative and have a bright future, I felt that involving performers with a broader expertise might lend a great deal more to the overall look and feel of the show.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Wordcatcher runs at the Blue Elephant Theatre until 20th October 2012.
Box Office: 020 7701 0100 or book online http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/wordcatcher

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