10-29 August 17:20The images conjured in the mind by the description of this show are sumptuously cosy and appealing – three Victorian ‘gentlemen of the road’ meeting below a street lamp to share stories.
However, The Lamplighter’s Lament is not quite what one expects. The piece is physical theatre – other than a short introduction, there is no dialogue – and these gentlemen tell only one simple story.
Visuals, such as the styling of the puppets used and the overarching lamp-lighting concept, are magical. However, I felt that a disproportionate amount of the show’s appeal rests on the lighting gimmickry; small bright lights on a dark stage will always look good, though the throwing of the light to the lamps is a nice touch, forming a clever and intriguing link between puppetry and live action. While deliberately experimental in style, a lot of attention is required to follow some aspects of the story, due to the lack of dialogue and material cues. This does, however, add effectively to the sparse, wistful aesthetic. The visuals are beautiful, but the overall piece would have a greater impact if they were complements to a fuller, clearer narrative.
I was particularly disappointed by the use of a spotlight rather than a lantern-like streetlamp prop, a decision which omitted some of the inherent charm of the setting. Interesting and charismatic characters meeting to tell a story, but without speaking, also seems a missed opportunity. Thus other than the lamp-lighting, the premise is better suited to a traditional theatrical form.
Overall, due to an experimental mode of delivery some rich veins of material are overlooked; however the setting is appealing and the visuals are charming.