A clockwork prostitute, two murdering music hall hags and a Siamese twin who eats his own brother; welcome to the weird and not so wonderful world of Green Stag Youth Theatre’s production Penny Dreadful. Told as three separate stories, the show struggles to find its feet and ends up floundering somewhere between grotesque caricature and seedy cabaret. Jokes are lost amid dodgy cockney accents and laughs are few and far between. It’s not all bad; there’s a clever dance scene where dirty deals are done as characters twirl between partners and changes of scenery are skilfully executed by members of the cast moving panels around the stage.
However, by far the best parts of Penny Dreadful are its musical numbers. There were some strong voices amongst the cast and their confidence seemed to improve when performing set choreography. The second instalment is a snappy tale of two sisters, the star attractions of a fading music hall who poison a potential competitor for the spotlight. This is by far the strongest of the trio, largely due to its song and dance emphasis. The actresses playing the Swann sisters were also very good, revelling in the meanness of the roles and hamming it up for the audience.
Unfortunately this standard did not extend to the remaining segments of the production, both of which fell flat. For a production built upon the Victorian penchant for melodrama, the complete lack of empathy I felt towards any of the characters is not a good sign. Less Penny Dreadful and more Penny Dull.