I loved The Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera because, although the cast are by no means the best dancers, singers or actors, this production has so much charisma and passion that it lingers with you long after the show has finished. This is a stage adaptation of Paul Shapera’s prog-rock concept album of the same name and the first in a trilogy of albums focusing on the fantastical city of New Albion. Clockwork Hart Productions was founded in 2013 by four students from Oxford and this production has been developed with support from Two Shades of Blue.
None of the actors are outstanding but each work together extremely well so the sense of cohesiveness in the performance is exceptional.
Lonely scientist Annabelle McAlistair (Emma Fleming) raises her dead love Jasper (Jack Taylor) and over the generations that follow, this scientific discovery has grave consequences for the McAlistair family and for the residents of New Albion. Stephanie Masucci is an expressive narrator, tying the acts of the show together and acting as a stage manager. The pop-up pages of the novel she reads as she tells the story are a creative touch and show the scale of the growth of New Albion without the need for an extravagant set. Using a minimalist assortment of props; one table, two chairs and a trunk for the most part, allows for the often fast-paced show to progress easily without hitch. Costumes are equally as well put together and although I would have liked to see a greater sense of Steampunk, they are nevertheless very much in keeping with the style of the show.
Taylor is perfectly brooding as Edward Scissorhands look-alike Jasper and plays the role with conviction. Similarly, Fleming is heart-wrenching as Annabelle, with a beautiful singing voice. As previously mentioned, none of the actors are outstanding but each work together extremely well so the sense of cohesiveness in the performance is exceptional. The direction and choreography are sharp with precise movements and technical effects to match.
A personal highlight is the technically excellent live band which fills the room with sound whilst never overpowering the vocalists, who are often extremely quiet. The music from this show will stick in your head, as will the dark but uplifting narrative. The Dolls of New Albion is a real gem.