'Shockheaded Peter, David Lynch and Edward Gorey, with a twist of Weimar cabaret': young British company 1927's 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea' is all that, plus some good-sized helpings of Felix the Cat, Fritz Lang, Buster Keaton, Salvador Dali and 'Where the Wild Things Are'. With a live piano soundtrack, and characters moving seamlessly from screen to stage and back again, you won't have seen anything quite like this before, and the laugh-out-loud moments will catch you unawares as ten curious and surreal little tales of temptation, sin and accidental death unfold before you. Presented by two Pierrot-esquely white-faced, rouge-mouthed ladies with severe hairstyles and cartoonised 1920s dress (Esme Appleton - the show's costumier - mostly silent, Suzanne Andrade - writer and director - narrating with clipped RP accent), the show has the slightly naughty, seductive charm of a little black velvet box of bitter chocolates. Their tales draw you in to an odd little world of twisted dreams, the veil rupturing altogether when an audience member is incorporated into the action (watch out boys! - it's not just the devil that will try to lead you astray this evening: be mindful too of the sinister little twins, with their synchronised speech and somber countenances).
Lillian Henley, clad all in black and sporting white face and black beret, keeps a constant soundtrack of silent film-style music (composed by herself) tinkling throughout, not wavering even as an enormous wobbling image of herself with the head of a proboscis monkey appears onscreen. There is some singing, which is pretty, and which I for one would have liked more of (and some magic, of which I would say the same). Praise must also go to the entirely silent member of the company, Paul Barritt, the maker of the excellent animated film so integral to the show. Altogether then, this makes for an impressive skill set in a company with just a quartet of members, and the result is a piece which is highly polished and professional whilst retaining that rare thing: a strong sense of fun and individuality. Catch it if you still can during its all-too-short three night run in Oxford, and have a gawp at the oddly complimentary Bob Nicolson retrospective hanging in the North Wall's bar on your way in too.
More info at www.19-27.co.uk