Melancholy

‘Spiral down the stairs to the world of the inventor. Consumed by grief, he undertakes work on his biggest creation yet, his lost wife... but at what cost?’

Melancholy is a well puppeteered piece, but there are aspects that could have been clearer and it could benefit from a quicker pace

This story of puppetry and animation follows a man’s (Stephen McCabe) journey into mourning and acceptance. His life before the death of his wife is revealed using clever - if not slightly slow - paper cutout animation, followed by the physical story of his longing to reinvent what once was.

His macabre workroom is that of an inventor, with stacks of ancient books, various potions and dark polished wooden furniture. The protagonist attempts to recreate his wife in a Frankenstein fashion and tries to breathe life into her, using an ancient looking defibrillator. However much to his and the audience’s disappointment, this method fails. Each time he feels himself spiraling out of control, he puts a pendulum on to coerce himself back to normality and sanity.

A small, sweet puppet enters the stage, and it seems the poor girl is being neglected by her sorrowful father. The puppeteers (Sarah Morgan and Laura Romer-Ormiston) animate her with precision and delicacy. She moves with such grace and concentration that she is a joy to watch, such as when she adorably chances a walk of fate as she tightropes the length of a meter ruler, much to her father’s negligence.

It is somewhat unclear who the small puppet is due to the non-human design – is it his daughter or a monster the man created? In a brief, carefree moment, the two perform a sweet clown piece as father and daughter, although it seems wherever he looks and whatever he does, the man is constantly reminded of what he has lost.

The piece begins at a soft, dream-like pace, entrancing the audience with melancholic and wistful song choices, such as I Put a Spell On You and Unchained Melody. The music is a lullaby and the audience are lured into hyper-relaxation, but sadly the piece remains at this level for the rest of the show. The piece has no words, but Mccabe animates with a series of appropriate exclamations and grunts. His movements are often vague, as he ballroom dances several times throughout the piece without any real conviction.

The message behind the piece is also unclear as the man suddenly resolves he is not miserable anymore… is the moral that having a big cry will end the grief? Melancholy is a well puppeteered piece, but there are aspects that could have been clearer and it could benefit from a quicker pace to subvert the classic expectation of grief. 

Reviews by Faye Butler

The Old Market

Melancholy

★★★
Marlborough Theatre

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★★★
Exeter Street Hall

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★★★★★
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★★★
The Warren: Studio 2

Dangled

★★★★
The Warren: Studio 3

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★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Spiral down the stairs to the world of the inventor. Consumed by grief, he undertakes work on his biggest creation yet, his lost wife... But at what cost? Award-winning theatre company Certain Dark Things use an imaginative combination of puppetry, physical theatre and animation to tell the story of one man as he treads the fine line between genius and insanity.