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Fables for a Boy review at Lost Theatre, London – ‘ambitious but oppressive’

The cast of Fables for a Boy at Lost Theatre, London. Photo: Silhouette Images The cast of Fables for a Boy at Lost Theatre, London. Photo: Silhouette Images
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Fables for a Boy is an encouragingly ambitious piece of new musical writing. It features a sweeping, discordant score by Sindre Kayman and an agonizingly dark book by Adrian Sandvaer, Ragnhild Kristoffersen and Gabriel Owen in which a changeling boy is adopted by a dysfunctional couple but fails to engage with the real world; instead, he is haunted by the ghost of his grandmother, whose dark fairy stories eerily mirror his troubled psyche.

Kayman’s  edgy score incorporates hints of traditional Slavic melodies, and the heightened story-telling includes puppetry, mime and song. The difficulty is that despite a magical production which makes the most of the Lost Theatre’s stage, the whole thing is unremittingly drawn out. Seemingly endless passage of pseudo-psychological mumbo-jumbo drain every ounce of charm from a story that was already spiralling into a black hole of melancholy.

A good half-hour overlong and devoid of any humour, even the exceptional production values being to pall as the story grinds inexorably to its unhappy conclusion. A committed cast negotiate the complex score with gusto, including Bethan Maddocks’ grandmother injecting a little colour into the otherwise bleak production. Ryan Duncan’s flamboyant direction creates glimpses of magic but not enough to dilute the increasingly oppressive atmosphere.

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Refreshingly ambitious and beautifully designed if frustratingly bleak and drawn-out new musical