Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Infamous Brothers Davenport

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
The audience are not only on their feet but are onstage inspecting the 
giant cabinet that dominates on entering this fiercely ambitious 
collaboration between Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison's Vox Motus 
company, playwright Peter Arnott and the Royal Lyceum. The conceit is a 
piece of Victorian hokum, in which the two Davenports of the title, Ira 
and Willie, conjure up spirits from within their cabinet under the 
half-lit scrutiny of a 'scientific spiritualist society'. Introduced by 
the grandiloquent Mr Fay under the watchful eye of the desperately 
seeking Lady Noyes-Woodhull, Willie, the younger of the two, is 
apparently possessed by his dead sister Katie as his spirit guide in a 
seance. When Willie goes off message, however, truth becomes far 
stranger than ghost stories.

As the spirit cabinet opens up, this reimagining of the real-life 
Davenports story lays bare the roots of their act in a damaged, 
bare-floorboards childhood, in which a hopped-up mother hallucinates 
heaven while a brutal father abuses Katie to death. The psycho-sexual 
scars are plain to see, particularly in Willie, as played by a 
whey-faced Scott Fletcher opposite his brother Ryan as a more 
practical, if perpetually perplexed Ira.

The first half-hour's box of vaudevillian tricks are but a 
curtain-raiser to what follows in a big, technically complex piece of 
Freudian expressionism, the very essence of which is about blind faith, 
hope and the power of suggestion. Accompanied by Phamie Gow and Jed 
Milroy's live piano and fiddle score, and with much emphasis on light 
and shade, Vox Motus have created a spine-tinglingly serious treatise 
on what the imagination might be capable of if we only let our demons 
out.

The Herald - January 26th 2012

ends 

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