This lovely little show called Extravaganza Macabre was at the Battersea Arts Centre in a small courtyard. I felt even before the show that the space we were in was thoroughly intermixed with the tone and mentality the show would be made of. Doing theatre in a nontraditional space always colors the outcome, but it’s usually for the better because it forces creative solutions to common place problems. Further it achieves a certain level of continuity that the audience finds comforting if the rag tag stage is on par with a rag tag company of actors.
The courtyard contained a raised set of platforms where we sat on the same level as the actors. The area was furnished with small wooden benches, an upright piano, and a steal catwalk that stretched around the yard about ten feet over head. The space was very nontraditional and very intimate. I had a front row seat and was no more than half a pace away from the actors for a majority of the performance. Directly opposite the seating area was a red brick building which acted as the CYC wall. The building had two white wooden framed windows, one of which was open, and that acted somewhat as a backstage area for them. The stage left area had a descending set of stairs entering a building that connected to the brick CYC wall building, and on stage left there was an arched entry way which also connected to the brick building. As we later found out, the raised platforms we were all sitting on also included two trap doors.
The amazing troop of actors we saw made use of the whole space and they interacted with the audience frequently. Two of the audience members became characters crucial to the plot and there was a beautiful moment of improve every time they were referenced or had to speak. The show was still set in a thrust manner, but because of the added characters and the troop of actors gallivanting through the seating the whole show felt very immersive. The actors were numbered only three, but they were each exceptionally talented singers, piano players, and actors. We later found out that they were their own company who met in drama school and have lived together and started producing shows ever since.
The show we saw that night was a play on melodrama and it took the extremes and clichés of the form so far that it was utterly comical. From the medium maid talking to dead relatives to the cheesy characters such as a dog called “Dog Dog” they made those of us who have studied the form absolutely die laughing. Personally, I loved it because the basic humor of a melodrama was layered with a satirical lens that made the experience somewhat more engaging and intellectual than a typical melodrama.