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The Hearing Trumpet review at the Old Library, London – ‘lovingly-made’

The cast of The Hearing Trumpet at the Old Library, London

Dirty Market repurposes found things. In its stage production of Leonora Carrington’s 1976 novel, rags and string, twigs and cardboard are given new leases of life just as Marian, the everywoman, at its heart starts to give up on hers.

The Hearing Trumpet is something of a hotchpotch, fitting for both the output of one of Britain’s most famous surrealist painters and the company adapting it. It takes the form of a tumble through the world of a sinister retirement home overlooked by a painting of a winking nun: murders, rebellion and apocalypse ensue.

Occupying several makeshift spaces in Theatre Delicatessen’s new performance venue the Old Library in south London (itself a repurposed space), the company’s enthusiasm for their source material is evident: this is lovingly-made work, exuberant and detailed in its world-building. At times – quite frequently – this love tips over into self-indulgence, and episodes and vignettes outstay their welcome.

Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee’s production never quite taps into Carrington’s full blooded Angela Carter-esque female mythologies, and where you might expect anarchy, whimsy is the order of the day.

Several performances are spot-on: Lizzie Clarke as a perpetual chatterbox inmate, Benedict Hopper as the syrupy Nurse Ratchet, Anne-Gaelle Thiriot silently mischievous as the winking nun.

Some of the images are also movingly clear: at the start, Marian’s family bathes a bundle of twigs, a sharp indicator of how they see her, withered and inert, even as she rises to life again.

 

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Verdict
DIY theatre company delivers a heartfelt but meandering portrait of age and rebellion
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