Bundled up in hat, scarf and gloves I felt that I was fully prepared for anything the Drama Barn could throw at me. And then it started raining. What would have been a fantastic opening outside the Drama Barn quickly became a struggle inside to the warmth. Unfortunately this meant the full impact of the start of the play was somewhat lost to a good half of the audience, especially for those who are vertically challenged like me.
However it was already clear from this point who the stand out member of the cast was going to be. With his voice bellowing “trash” at the mere mention of some of our best loved literary heroes Declan Dillanes’ Philippe channelled his inner Bernard Black from start to finish. Whilst Helen Peatfields’ Harmonica provided the audience with a very recognisable sister figure complete with embarrassing squeals.
The plot revolves around 5 characters whose are tied to each other through an old book shop, the Librarium, owned by Macbeth (Alex Wakelam). Huxley (Harry Ward), Philippe and Harmonica work in Macbeth’s shop where everything appears to have become stale and repetitive and where everyone seems to dream of leaving but no – one ever gets around to it.
The set was immersive yet minimalist, drawing you into the very private world of the five characters whilst giving the old book shop a real antique, vintage feel. A further mention must be made of the books used on set; many of which had been donated to the play by students and many of which will be heading to the Oxfam book shop in town once the play comes to its end. In short an admirable motive which could only add to the experience of the play.
Philippe and Macbeth’s abhorrent and doddery appearances betrayed a much deeper desire to escape and create a new ending – whether it be happy or not – to their lives.
The only criticism that could be made seemed to lie with the fact that the play wanted to tell too many stories; each tale could have easily had a script to itself. The love story between Huxley and Mariabel was almost too childish for what was otherwise a very grown up feeling play. However their interactions did make a nice contrast from the very real world of Macbeth and Philippe although they did quickly become clichéd.
Although I would not agree with the labelling of the play as a tragi- comedy, the comedic elements were very effective particularly Philippe’s dramatic ‘collapse’ as well as many of the in- joke references to Macbeth and Shakespeare’s work. It was this literary element that seemed to flourish most throughout the play helping to add to the feel of the very literature grounded world which Macbeth seemed to inhabit.
Overall The Librarium was an enjoyable play spoilt perhaps only by the intervention of Mother Nature herself.