Parlour Games

Parlour Games is a playful piece of physical theatre inspired by silent films and gothic novels. It follows four children at the turn of the 20th Century, dressed for bed and playing make-believe games while they hide from a storm. This imaginative piece takes us back to a childhood where the lines between fantasy and reality can be blurred.

Too often the cast are let down by a lack of imagination in their movements

The cast includes one girl and three boys at various stages of innocence and fear, allowing us to guess their ages. There is a threatening undercurrent of reality running through the children’s various antics - from the dominating figure of ‘The Count’ played by the oldest, most powerful boy to his real (and imagined) jealousy for the romantic couple played by the middle boy and the girl. Whether these threats (or those of the mysterious noises ‘upstairs’) are real, remains to be seen as the games gather momentum towards a melodramatic climax.

The action is split between moments when the lights are on and the children are themselves, and sequences in the dark, lit by torches that the actors hold to illuminate each other. These sequences delineate the ‘imaginary’ scenes with an eclectic backdrop of well-chosen music that suits the mood of each story. The use of torches create a blueish spotlight which is perfectly reminiscent of the silent movies they are emulating. One particularly good montage is when the children become lost in a storm at sea and they use a sheet for rippling waves. The torches are also used effectively here to create a sense of movement through flickering light.

While Lecoq-trained company Tooth+Nail are neat and accomplished performers, overall their performance here is just a little boring. Too often the cast are let down by a lack of imagination in their movements. For example, their mouths are often hanging open for no apparent reason. The female actor does appear more natural than the men; her movements often more fluid and therefore more believable. However, there is not enough visual trickery or originality in their movements to be entirely compelling and the actors rely too much on slow precise gestures that get tired quickly.

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

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The Blurb

1927. A black and stormy night. Alone in a crumbling manor, four children play a delightfully dark, frightfully funny game, where the shadows ring with laughter and buried secrets threaten to spoil the fun. Edward, Constance, Oliver and Theo revel in old tales of castles, dungeons and kidnapped heroines. But their own past is not at rest, and the violence of a half-forgotten war lurks beyond the torchlight. Born of classic Gothic novels and visually inspired by early silent films, Parlour Games is an inventive, funny, playful and disturbing work of physical theatre from Lecoq-trained company Tooth+Nail.