The death of the high street – we’ve all heard about it. How many of us remember when it was the heart of a place? Now many buildings are shuttered up: empty shop fronts visited only by wind-blown piles of litter, and bored kids hanging around. Well once, long ago, this street was bustling and vibrant with markets, gossip and lodgings. Success and fortune were evident, but was a supernatural hand at play?
Wrapped in a slick PowerPoint, With The Devil’s Assistance begins at the modern high street, smarting as it finds itself in a second recession – then takes us back, to a very busy building on a very busy road full of very busy bodies. Top storytelling paints a market so real you can almost smell the fresh fish, and an inn so full of the noisy energy of the drinkers. It is here we meet the landlady, Maggie Osbourne, a hardworking business owner. Her busy public house sees all the hustle and bustle of the crowded town, but when unfortunate events see a local family killed, suspicion and rumour abound. Is Maggie’s success all her own doing?
Combining storytelling, musical accompaniment and a PowerPoint (including a demonic singalong segment) this show carefully manages an eclectic balance and every element enhances without distraction. Nothing feels gimmicky and though a few transitions are a little disjointed, the narrative generally flows very well. It is a well-thought-out show, interesting and well judged, as well as skilfully performed.
Shona Cowie and Neil Sutcliffe combine their impressive skills, each adding greatly and uniquely to the show. Cowie’s top-notch storytelling is engaging, funny and also endearing. With great energy, she brings characters and scenes to life, yet when she pauses the effect is even greater. Meanwhile, Sutcliffe’s comic timing and skilful playing further enhance the mood and atmosphere. He picks up on the mood and tone perfectly, careful to not overwhelm the story.
This show’s interesting premise is carried superbly by engaging and energetic storytelling, with spot-on music and video accompaniment. There is an undertone that asks the audience to think a little deeper, and an overlay of storytelling you can really lose yourself in.