A UK premiere by Hristo Boytchev (British Council International Playwriting Award) in a new translation by Steve King, John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sliding Doors, The Mummy) stars in The Titanic Orchestra, a madcap comedy of illusion.
Four tramps huddle together at an abandoned railway station, full of vodka-fuelled dreams of escaping on one of the passing trains. But the trains never stop. Until, one day, a dishevelled stranger is thrown into their midst. He claims to be the great Houdini, (Hannah) and promises that together they will perform the most astonishing vanishing act the world has ever seen.
Ivan Barnev (Doko), Stuart Crowther (Luoko), Heidi Niemi (Lyubka) and Jonathan Rhodes (Meto) give credible performances, alongside their better-known co-star, Hannah, who commands the stage, as we know he can, performing some Houdini tricks with skill.
There are comical elements to the play, with Houdini orchestrating the tramps to play like the Titanic Orchestra on instruments that turn out to be nothing but everyday objects. But then not a lot else happens. There is a certain Beckett-like absurdity to the plot, with a Waiting for Godot feel to it, and the play lacks pace.
The theatre was full but this probably had more to do with the popularity of Hannah and a 2 for 1 deal on the Tuesday performance that could have drawn the crowds in. It may be a crowd-puller but it’s not a play I will be rushing back to see.