[Review:] THE ORCHESTRA, Omnibus Theatre, London.
The Orchestra, directed by Kristine Landon-Smitho and currently performing at the Omnibus Theatre, is TeatroLatino’s adaptation of L’Orchestre by Jean Anouilh, translated by Jeremy Sans.
Being a farce, there are many unrealistic elements to Anouilh’s text: the instrumentalists’ ability to hear each other speaking over their music, and the extended interludes between their performances; a self-obsessed manager’s lack of care for a dead employee; etc. Farces, particularly absurdist ones like this, require chaos and increasing momentum. Otherwise, they require a certain nonchalance that treats absurd and peculiar goings-on as natural and calculated.
In places, this adaptation’s performance style treated this farce appropriately. One particular moment treating this nonchalance, for instance, sees Madame Hortense (Amanda Osborne) hand large sombrero-like hats out to the instrumentalists who put them on without reaction or complaint. This blasé acceptance of something so strange is humorous – and did receive laughter from the audience too. Moments like these were effective.
However, on the whole, this adaptation treated the farcical elements of the play rather blandly. Besides Stefania Licari (playing Suzanne Delicias) and Pedro Casarin (playing Monsieur Leon), actors performed rather reservedly, their characterisations and movements simplistic, repetitive and restricted. In this way, the comedy came mostly from the text rather than the performers. For example, whilst their conversation journeyed bizarrely from decorated houses and relationship problems to incontinent, baby-like elderly mothers, Luna Dai (playing Patricia) and Sarah Waddell’s (playing Pamela) personas remained exactly the same throughout: snooty and dismissive, and sober and short. Thus, their performance, more so Dai’s, remained at one level throughout. Their interactions constituting most of the play’s duration, a change in character is imperative to keep the audience both attentive and entertained. The same could be said for Charlotte Laporte (playing Ermeline), who could have become even more animated and fiery in her storytelling, and for Jessica Hulme (playing Leona), whose reactions to Ermeline’s stories could have become more and more expressive. With little lines, physicality is crucial, particularly with the topography of the stage which made action in the back less easily perceptible. If this had been a realistic play, I would say that Amanda Osborne performed frightfully well, but, again, more energy is needed in this circumstance. Diction was also a problem in this performance, especially for Dai but also for Licari.
The choice to have the actors play fake instruments to the sound of music (composes by Felix Cross) was a humorous decision. However, whilst this improved towards the end of the performance and speaks less of Sarah Waddell, this miming was not synchronised to the music. This fact could have been humorous if attention was drawn to it, but as it stood, it was simply off-putting. Despite this lack of synchronisation, this miming was also managed far too realistically. It would have been much more comedic to have the performers looking forward, grinning ostentatiously towards the audience, straight after the absurd arguments and mishaps, particularly whilst wearing those ridiculous hats. When needing to converse whilst playing, characters could have then spoken through their teeth. This would have also better served the spotlights (lighting by Angus Chisholm) which felt very unnecessary during these sequences. Only in moments of minute action – e.g. if they were, in fact, talking through their teeth – are spotlights required. Used as they were, the spotlights simply made the orchestra appear broken and temporally nuanced. Finally, the musical sequence in the beginning was far too long.
Overall, this performance needed to be more energised. As it stood, actors performed rather minutely and naturalistically, making the ending, an off-stage suicide and a frantic manager running through the audience, seem very out of place stylistically. Characterisation absolutely needed to be boldened and exaggerated with the plot’s progression, and this was not the case.
“A humorous performance but in need of energisation and melodrama.”
Photography credited to Jacob Malinski.