Feast of Bones

If they pay attention, this show will satisfy even the hungriest of audiences

 

The Ark

****

It is 1918, just after the war, and the world has truly been turned upside down. At Dublin restaurant Le Monde Bouleversé, a group of French refugee musicians are hoping to set things right, in their own, slightly sinister way. There is something gallinaceous about the Gallic hostess (Lisa Lambe) and her twitching posture that will only become clear as she serves just deserts to the vulpine visitor (Louis Lovett), who has arrived at the restaurant with an appetite. Things will get messy, but they will also get silly, in this grim rendering of a long-forgotten fairy tale.

Theatre Lovett and Frances Kay’s adaptation of Walter de la Mare’s little-known, out-of-print Animal Stories seems to bite off more than it can chew. There are layers of detail and allusion in the script, which extrapolates from Henny Penny to the politics of pacifism in the first World War. Between chasing puns down rabbit holes and each other round the stage, there comes a point where you are not quite sure whether it is making any sense or that there is anything to make sense of. Mercifully, it all becomes clear, with the swish of a tail, a swift bit of exposition, and an act of mercy that yields a surprising happy-ever-after to a dark moral tale.

Feast of Bones is a fantastically realised show, which trusts its target audience of over-nines to keep all the pieces of the story together, although the agility with which they perform this task will depend on familiarity with the source material. Nico Brown’s original score is a tremendous addition to proceedings. Performed by Brown, along with Martin Brunsden, Lambe and Lovett, it adds drama and atmosphere, never more so than in the scene where Brunsden exacts a wailing sound from a saw to counterpoint the plot’s major revelations.

Lambe and Lovett are versatile performers with faces as expressive as silent film stars, and they are as adept with the music as they are with the physical demands of their roles. However, it is worth reading the Note on our Menu, attached to the programme, before the show begins so that you can focus entirely on the theatrical treat in front of you.

Ends Sunday