Invisible Bonfires

Written by the company
Forkbeard Fantasy
Tobacco Factory, Bristol, and touring

Publicity image

Curiosity drew me to see this show. Its theatrical premise is an international tour of Climate Change, and the production promised Forkbeard Fantasy's signature mix of "much-loved surreal comedy, spectacle and invention, film and cartoon", served up with "the Brittonioni's astonishing apparatus, fabulous 3-D projections, and ultra-slick smoothy-pant presentation". Woven into all this is a re-working of the company's Rough Magick, performed at last year's Complete Works festival. Such an ambitious sales pitch cried out for attention.

It proved rather an over-ambitious pitch.

A cast of four perform something akin to a madcap science programme for schools. The Brittonioni Brothers (Chris and Tim Britton) are reminiscent of David Attenborough-meets-the-Chuckle Brothers. The production is visually overwhelming - a cluttered multi-media mix, including an animated history of the universe; a 3D representation of plastic evolutionary mutations; a shadow-puppet representation of Pan awakening, and a life-size marionette of a horse.

The piece rests on its delicious musical accompaniment - like a funky, late night cabaret - provided by the inimitable Lotus Pedals who are worth the ticket price alone.

But nothing quite overcomes the production's key flaw: its lame and disjointed plot. Climate change, the science of the carbon cycle, the Pan myth and Prospero's Rough Magick are all draped across the thin veneer of a Climate Change road-show, where the key-note speakers (the Brittonioni Brothers) turn out to be eco-frauds.

There are some entertaining scenes, some fabulous live music and some amusing caricatures (most notably Pashale Straiton's Paschale Pasquale, "Climate Champion for the local council", with her old-school politeness and a whole bundle of neuroses). But the production ultimately misses the mark as a piece of theatre, and leaves one with a strong sense of having been subjected to a piece of thinly disguised T.I.E. for grown-ups.

"Invisible Bonfires" runs at the Tobacco Factory until October 6th, then tours until March 2008 to Buxton, Lancaster, Halifax, Totnes, Cardiff, Croydon, Margate, Coventry, Halesworth, Toynbee Studios, London, Exeter, Brighton and Salford Quays.

Reviewer: Allison Vale

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