Friday, 20 February 2009

The Last Resort - The Customs House, South Shields

The Last Resort By Russell Dean
Director: Ashley Dean
Composer & Musician: Mark Dean
Reviewer: Ian Cain

Described as ‘Spitting Image meets The Brothers Grimm,’ The Last Resort is a darkly comic folk tale with a startling mix of half-masked actors, puppets, live music and song.
A soldier-thief is forced to make a fiendish pact with a devil on holiday from Hell and they both descend upon an unsuspecting remote village on the edge of ruin. As the visitors make a tantalising offer of redemption, how far will the mayor, the priest, and the doctor go to seize the glittering prize?
This production is staged in a manner that is reminiscent of Commedia dell’arte, the Italian form of improvised theatre that originated in the 16th century. The cast of four, Russell Dean, Jonny Dixon, Roxanne Palmer and Kai Simmons, portray a multitude of stock characters, their masks enhancing the characterisation of each of them.
The masks, designed by Russell Dean, are gloriously grotesque yet strangely beguiling. Each is an individual work of art in its own right and they provide a look that is caricatural, adding to the mood and tone of the play.

The lighting and sound design also contribute greatly to the overall effect and the accordion music gives a distinctly Eastern European feel.
A simple set, skilfully designed by Jane Churchill, is effective and, rather than detracting from the events unfolding in the play, its windows are utilised to reveal hand puppets, two of which were remarkably similar to Waldorf and Statler from The Muppet Show.

Aimed at adults and young people of nine and over, The Last Resort may be a little too dark for youngsters. However, with each act being approximately fifty minutes long, the total running time is perfect. Ashley Dean’s direction combined with the actors’ performances and the satirical script ensures that the audience’s attention never wanders.

The Last Resort is a quirky, weird and wonderful piece of theatre that is absorbing and entertaining. The story, as with most folk tales, has some dark and gothic moments but there is the obligatory moral, too: Kindness and honour will triumph over greed and personal ambition.
For more information on tour dates click here
frontpage hit counter