City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Le Bossu, Bedlam Theatre, Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 07 August 2016

Le Bossu - withWings Theatre Company
Show details
Bedlam Theatre
withWings Theatre Company
Running time: 
Helen Kate Lindley (director), Christian Eccles-Cannon, Tom Figgins, Izzy Jones (composers), Mark Portnell, Will Gillibrand (set / scenic designer), Tom Turner (lighting designer).
Tommy Figgins (Quasimodo), Izzy Jones (Esmerelda), Mark Portnell (Frollo), Ben Maltz-Jones (Gringoire), Christian Eccles-Cannon (Squaretaker), Dominic Blake (Emanuel), Kitty Murdoch (Genevieve), Himesh Patel (Denis).

High above the streets of Paris there is a place of angels and gargoyles. In the organ loft and campanile of the dark, gothic Notre Dame Cathedral Quasimodo watches the people come to mass and talks to the bells.

He has been here amidst the rose-windows and dust gathering floors for 18 years; hidden away, safe where people cannot see him. God has given him a face not to be seen but a voice to call the citizens to prayer, he is told by his guardian, Archdeacon Frollo.

And so he shares his space with the mischievous pigeons and looks out over his beloved city to the point where the buildings blur and for him the world ends. But into his universe enters the impossibly exotic gypsy traveller, Esmerelda. Far below him in the cathedral square she enchants as she dances to the beat of her tambourine, feet flying over the cobbles, hips swaying, raven hair flying.

She is temptation and seduction impossible to ignore. Even for the pious Frollo. He is a man who likes his rules, from those he imposes on Quasimodo to those he posts around the cathedral – soon added to the “No Pigeons” is “No Tambourines”. But strictures and creed can’t save him. Esmeralda has him and the city under her spell. The people are besotted, following her in a chorea like sleepwalk – they dream in tambourine.

While he hears the sins of his parishioners, the confessor has confessions. To a hissing sound, like sins dripping from hot tongues, he fails to extinguish the baleful looking red light that catechises him – “Confess”. His desires, as Hugo said are “too shameful to reveal”.

But not it seems too disgraceful to act upon, and his actions soon endanger Esmerelda while offering dubious salvation. Sanctuary instead comes from Quasimodo, and in this safe place is to be discovered what makes a man and all there is to be loved.

This is a stripped-back version of the classic tale, focussing on the Romantic rather than imbuing the revolutionary fervour of its time. As such it eschews the darker side and some characters, along with at least one option for a dramatic ending.

What it offers though is a delight to the senses. The set comprises the belfry’s wooded beams and organ pipes and allows the actors to swing as anthropomorphised bells. Around this the cast weave in choreographed movement, props flowing as they conjure up pigeons from bellows and Parisian streets from models. Pulling it all together is a wonderful live soundtrack from the multi-instrumental cast; never better than when the bells peal. Added to all this is more than a soupcon of silliness, berets, croissants and kazoo playing.

With so much going on it lacks a little in its ability to connect and to tug on the heart strings, but the talents that the company showed in the previous sell-out and award-winning show, “The Duck Pond” are eclipsed by this courageous production.

Show Times: 3 – 21 (not 16) August 2016 at 6pm.

Tickets: £5 to £8.50 (£7.50).

Suitability: PG