On Friday the 13th, the rainiest and gloomiest evening of September, in a church forgotten by London’s evening bustle, the Owle Schreame Theatre Company raised the screaming and rampaging fun of a play only performed only once before in history from the dead: Bussy D’Ambois. Making the authors just beneath our feet truly turn in their graves.
One of three plays that the Owle Schreame Theatre company are reviving this season, Bussy D’Ambois ticks all the boxes for pew-gripping madness; adultery, betrayal, the supernatural – and much more. The setting, the beautiful St. Giles-in-the-Fields church, located just round the corner from the crowds of Tottenham Court Road tube station, was the perfect place to bring this obscure play into the light. A little concerned that the dialogue would prove challenging to follow for those who feel intimidated by Jacobean plays, this was not the case, as the location allowed for the visual impact of the scenes to help trace and conjure the plot of this bloodthirsty play.
As the performance was advertised as a piece of ‘experimental theatre’ I was intrigued as to how this theatre genre could be combined with the standards of Jacobean theatre. Indeed, the setting proved to be the first experimental factor, but then also the intertwining of expected dialogue scenes with group physical pieces, which used rhythm, physicality and voice to great effect, to create the compelling atmosphere of love scenes and the summoning of evil creatures.
One aspect of the production which I greatly enjoyed was the varied use of voice which the actors adopted; namely, the use of singing which maintained the eerie atmosphere that echoed throughout the church. Having said this, perhaps due to the acoustics and layout, at times some of the actors were a little difficult to hear, as they were either facing away from the audience or at a great distance from them.
The acting in general was hugely engaging, with actors such as Brice Stratford as the tempestuous protagonist Bussy D’Ambois, and Rosalyn Mitchell playing the vulnerable Tamyra, both of whom brought a great energy to the production – which I must say was topped off with a very impressive sword fighting scene that left the audience positively cowering in their pews.
A production of great cloak and sword-swishing valour, Bussy D’Ambois is well worth a watch.
Bussy D’Ambois is being performed at St. Giles-in-the-Fields until Friday 13th December, with a special Hallowe’en performance on October 31st. Find out more at cannibalvalour.com.