Marsha is a charming young girl with red hair and cute freckles. She carries a red bag with all types of things from sugar bags to Maltesers and wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a truck lorry tried to run her over. Although, behind the green hills of McDonald’s Farm and the sun shining over the village, there’s a reality unknown to Marsha which, we, the audience discover in this amusing, introspective and absorbing production directed by Martin Constantine, created by Live Art Show, currently showing at this year’s Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre.
With no expectations, audiences are kindly asked to wear a mask, put shopping items into Marsha’s bag and to say “hello” back if she says “hello” to you first. This may seem demanding, but this adds a heightened dimension to the show, which is revealed as soon as Marsha speaks and tells us her story in the dark.
Odd and strange characters make Marsha’s day an adventure with pee-in-the-sea Mr MadDonald, stuttering Johnny, likes-to-eat-children Mrs Hoare and aggressive mother Susan. These roles were performed with panache and distinction by talented opera soloists: Jessica Gillingwater, Sarah Baillie, Victoria Gray and Kerry-Lynne Dietz, who were planted in the audience also in mask disguises. Alone or in a group, their performances drove the story through with witty and evocative vocal qualities.
Tilly Gaunt, as Marsha, is full of bright energy and she sparkles on the little stage. She throws the audience out of their world and straight into Marsha’s which is rather uncomfortable. What’s also intriguing is that the opera seems innocent; that is until Marsha falls asleep in a bus shelter after being bitten in the sea by carnivorous fish. By the end of the opera, it feels like you’ve been robbed and cheated yet that’s the world that Marsha lives in which Alan Harris’s piercing words wants audiences to realize.
With the wall covered with children’s drawings of Marsha, and a video projection of similar drawings, designer Will Holt manages to make the audience feel Marsha’s own naivety. Peter Harrison’s light design of the clear, serene waters captures the cozy setting whilst Harry Blake’s musical composition is soothing, natural and touching. Notably, the cast and production have a breadth of experience that spans from the English National Opera (ENO), Welsh National Opera (WNO) to the Royal Academy of Music, and that’s obvious throughout. Go in liking Marsha, you’ll walk out not liking her as much.
Review by Mary Nguyen
LIVEARTSHOW presents Marsha: A Girl Who Does Bad Things
Marsha is locked away. She waits and waits, and then it happens…
A humorous, honest and startling account of the world through fresh eyes, Marsha is the story of a young girl discovering the truth about beauty. Playful and unsettling, it explores our notions of innocence, prejudice and the blurred lines between reality and fantasy.
LIVEARTSHOW creates new theatre with music. Their first productions, Manga Sister and Rhinegold, were at the centre of the Peter Brook Empty Space Award-winning season at the Yard Theatre. The Future For Beginners (a co-production with the Wales Millennium Centre) toured Wales last autumn, and played at Summerhall (Edinburgh Festival), where it was winner of the MTN Award 2014 for Best New Musical.
“It’s a fair walk down to Mr MadDonald’s farm but it’s worth it. He has all sorts of animals….”
Marsha: A Girl Who Does Bad Things
Tuesday 11th to Saturday 15th August, 2015 at 8.00pm
Friday 14th August 2015