As you walk into Theatre Lovett’s production of A Feast of Bones, you may wonder whether this is really a production for children. First, there is the title. Then, as you enter the Traverse One, you see a young girl standing alone onstage – only candle-light illuminating the dark space – gazing out at the audience as if in a trance. Shortly after, a deep, bellowing voice of an (unseen) Irishman tells you the story of Henny Penny, which as well as an experience in itself leaves you completely bewildered. What A Feast of Bones offers, however, is a story to be enjoyed by everyone in attendance. A play on an old folk tale, Frances Kay’s piece offers a story of vengeance! and redemption, told against the decadent backdrop of a dimly-lit restaurant in post-war France.
A Feast of Bones offers takes the macabre and grim nature of this fairy tale and creates something beautiful. The play’s aesthetic is beguiling – the dark, candle-lit restaurant, the early early-twentieth-century clothing – which all accompanied by two musicians (Nico Brown and Martin Brunsden), produces a fine spectacle for the audience to behold. Then there is Lisa Lambe, the graceful and smooth-speaking French waitress. While arguably the cast speak a little too much French in their singing and shouting at one another – fine for the older members of the cast to follow but less so for the younger ones – it is delightful to hear Lambe speak French, chastising the cheeky musicians. Even more intoxicating is Lambe’s voice, her singing an wonderful addition throughout the play.
Not only is A Feast of Bones aesthetic pleasing, it is also very funny. The mix of music and slapstick comedy, along with the French musicians’ asides and demands for Lambe’s character to “TRANSLATE!” things into English, are all very well-received by the audience. The majority of the laughs depend on Louis Lovett as Monsieur Renard. The sole diner at Le Monde Bouleversé, he is in for a meal that not many would be able to stomach; yet as the ominous atmosphere intensifies, his zany personality and quick but dumb-witted retorts to Lambe ease the tension. Translated as “The world turned upside down”, the curious nature of this restaurant allows for some foolishness. That said, sometimes Lovett’s eccentricities are too much, his nonsensical musings too ridiculous for even the school children in the audience. Nevertheless, Mr Renard’s slick look, sense of superiority and insatiable appetite make him a prime victim of Le Monde Bouleversé.
A Feast of Bones takes its time in allowing for the audience to digest what is really going on in this eerie eatery. The gradual unveiling of clues as to why the story of Henny Penny is so important to this unusual group of individuals is cleverly done, so much so that those quick to suspect the truth will be dying to have their theory be confirmed. Yet that doesn’t mean that A Feast of Bones is predictable. In the end, it offers a surprising close that brings peace to a war-torn group of individuals, turning the world back to the right way up. A Feast of Bones is an excellent piece of theatre – it is a real shame that it was only on for two days.