Review: Sombre zest

24 March 2016

by Joseph Winer

The Durham Light Opera Group described their production of The Addams Family as "a wacky musical comedy… [with] plenty of dark humour". I am pleased to say that they didn’t disappoint. The musical presents the characters we all know and… love (!?), and tells the story of Wednesday Addams (Jennifer Bullock) falling in love with a normal boy, Lucas (Joe McWilliam). With the parents of these two lovebirds set to meet for dinner, hilarity and disaster will surely result.

Will Emery’s choreography morbidly dazzled from start to finish. Emery combined recognisable moves (from the musical theatre genre, as well as the disco dance floor) with the sinister gloom of the characters, with plenty of arm and leg work, as if the spirits of the dead were performing in a vampire-cabaret. A little more unity was perhaps required among the chorus of ancestors; however, what seemed like a conscious decision to give each ancestor their own individuality worked just as well. Emery was blessed with a strong ensemble, who were able to perform his routines with the sombre zest required for this dark comedy.

Charlie Keable’s vision made use of a backdrop of the Addams family household, with an upstage rostrum to create a two-levelled stage. On one occasion when both levels were used, the raised characters were blocked by their fellow performers, although generally this didn’t cause concern. There was, however, a noticeable draw towards downstage, which at times made the blocking feel slightly under-thought. There were a few moments where the depth of the stage could have been taken advantage of, particularly in moments of soliloquy or monologue in text or song. The design was all-round effective, with well-thought attention to detail to the costumes. Morticia’s dress held the elegant grace of a sophisticated, sexy housewife and Sadie Fitch Kempner complemented the flow of the material with an effortless poise to her gestures.

Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin created the typical “dad” character as Gomez, forming a solid rapport with the audience and delivering his comedy with precise comic timing. Bullock and Sorrel Brown (as Wednesday and Alice, respectively) gave powerfully strong vocal performances, with Bullock performing a hilarious version of "Pulled" and Brown projecting one of the strongest belts I’ve ever heard. Harry Adair (as the gloomy manservant Lurch) provided an example of how a performer can receive attention and audience reaction with complete subtlety. His stillness, slowness and warped speech caused for plenty of moments of hilarity, with a fun during the moon sequence.

Congratulations to the cast and crew for a visually engaging production, with strong performances consistently featured throughout.

Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca