Review – A Note Of Dischord

August 16, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Likeable experimentalism

The Space @ Venue 45: Mon 12 – Sat 17 August 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Theatre Paradok’s A Note Of Dischord is an unclassifiable and engagingly silly hour’s entertainment at The Space @Venue 45 in Jeffrey Street.

Based on a web comic called 2D Goggles by Sydney Padua, the play was written and directed by Jeni Cumming with the aid of Fiona Keenan and members of the cast.

Isabel Palmstierna is The Organist. Photo Claudia Marinaro

The story is set in an alternative version of 19th century London, where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, developers of the ‘difference engine’, a forerunner of the computer, have set themselves up as crime fighters.

Unfortunately, Babbage is more concerned with developing a machine that will eliminate what he considers to be the source of much greater misfortune – street musicians. Criminal mastermind The Organist seeks to thwart Babbage’s plan.

The plot, however, is secondary to the spectacle. It proves very difficult to follow; as Babbage himself declares towards the end, ‘I’m not quite sure what’s going on here’. The performance is dominated by physical theatre and clowning, supported by a succession of weird and wonderful machines and atmospheric sound effects. This is punctuated with a series of scientific jokes which make no concessions to the educational background of your average Fringe-goer.

While much of the movement and clowning is effective, there needs to be a little more precision about some of it. The ‘ragged orchestra’, (Jonathan Blaydon, Evelyn Ryan and Sam Irving) who function as a kind of chorus, display a rigour and concentration not always matched by the principals.

Jodie Mitchell makes a striking Babbage but does not always have the necessary power, while Noah Tomson’s Lovelace, although possessed of a calm authority, is also too diffident on occasions. Adam Cook as Wheatstone, The Organist’s accomplice, is suitably weaselly.

Manic intensity and off-centre charm

There also needs to be a little more relish of the material. Nobody will mistake this for realism, so there seems little point in underplaying it. There are some good jokes that go by almost unnoticed, when a little more brio would make them stand out. Chris Kozlowski as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, chewing his cigar and almost chewing the scenery, is successful precisely because he makes that extra comic effort.

The outstanding performance is by Isabel Palmstierna as The Organist, complete with ghoulish make-up reminiscent of the Joker and a real devotion to the character’s wish to be the centre of attention. As a result she achieves exactly the right combination of manic intensity and off-centre charm which, where it achieved by everyone else, would make this spectacular.

Paradok’s intentions to make experimental yet accessible theatre must be applauded. It’s hard not to warm to a play where the central character yells ‘Damn you, Fringe!’ There should be more companies like them; even if they are not quite as clever as they think they are, at least they are being clever.

Running time 45 minutes
Run ends Saturday 17 August 2013
Daily at 8.10 pm
Venue 45, The Space @ Venue 45, 63 Jeffrey Street, EH1 1DH
Tickets from www.edfringe.com
Theatre Paradok website: paradok.co.uk

ENDS

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