The Warren Theatre, York Place
13 & 14 May, 1.00pm
Haste’s Theatre’s production is full of charm and whimsy, conjuring up the atmosphere of the seaside with no more than an ice cream tray and a blue cloth. It tells the tale of a young couple, Alice and Jim, who gorge on oysters on their wedding night. They consequently have a child, Sam, with an oyster shell head, although it takes some time for this to be stated. I would have liked clarification as to whether it is just shaped like an oyster, or IS actually an oyster, as portrayed by the puppet, who is completely adorable. I can see that it is meant as a metaphor for all abnormalities that society finds hard to deal with, but I think if a character had named it, the impact would have been stronger.
The actress playing Jim has a lovely gentle mischievous quality and American Alice is as blonde and wholesome as any prom queen. However, the real strength of the production lies with the supporting cast of four women. Dressed in fifties style polka-dot dresses, they switch effortlessly into a number of roles, playing bitchy mothers, friends to the boy, doctors, receptionists and, my personal favourite, the restaurant, complete with animated tablecloth and snooty waiters with wandering moustaches. In earlier outings of the production, they wore striped tops and shorts, which I think might have worked better considering the variety of roles they play. Beautiful though the frocks are, they are undeniably feminine.
I thoroughly recommend the production for its inventiveness with staging, the skill of the performers, beautiful harmony singing, whirlwind action and the moving simplicity of the puppet representing Sam. A note of caution though: It is inspired by a Tim Burton poem ‘The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy’ and although the recommended age is 8+, younger audiences used to a Disney style conclusion will be startled by this ending, which comes a little abruptly and may be upsetting.