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The Hearing Trumpet review at the Coach House, Brighton – ‘rough and ready’

Scene from The Hearing Trumpet at Coach House, Brighton. Photo: Dark Matter Theatre
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This is a tough one. On the one hand, it’s brilliant to see a new theatre company make its debut, particularly one comprising artists from several countries. But The Hearing Trumpet, as a piece of theatre, feels unfinished.

Inspired by the novel by surrealist artist and writer Leonora Carrington, Paris-based Dark Matter Theatre have created a piece heavily indebted to the comic grotesque and clowning of French theatre.

Its tale of an elderly woman shipped off to a retirement home is the loosest of frames for a show that winkingly revels in eschewing fixed meaning. It plays with exaggerated performance and gender – white make-up and grey-haired half-masks.

The feverish, operatic excess of Matt Huxley’s sound design suggests freewheeling farce. And Fauve Alice and Jayne Walling (Dark Matter Theatre founders and the cast of this show) are skilled and expressive comic performers.

But this kind of theatre risks chucking itself to its own sidelines, unless attacked with real energy and breathless insanity. And Alice and Walling are just a little too hesitant in their delivery to power Javier Ariza Barcina’s production through its jerkier moments.

However, this rough-and-readiness is what a work-in-progress – which, in Brighton, this still is – should be about, particularly in a company’s first show. There are definitely the seeds of something fascinating here.

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Rough-and-ready comic surrealism in a promising work-in-progress from a new international theatre company