Wales Millenium Centre, Cardiff | Sat 19 Dec
While everybody else went to see Les Miserables, in the smaller Weston Studio just down the hall Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea was unfolding to a bewitched audience. A sort of morbid, theatrical cabaret cut with film and accompanied throughout by a live pianist, it’s a brilliant production, brimming with originality and buoyed by a dark wit.
Between The Devil… is actually a series of ten sketches that are all uncomfortable to watch, but joyfully so, sort of like salting a mouth ulcer. It’s unsettling to watch hundreds of gingerbread men commit suicide en masse in The Biscuit Tin Revolution, true, but it’s also unmistakeably thrilling to have it relayed by a brusque, matronly narrator with a deliciously crisp intonation – like what you’d expect to happen if the cast of Watch With Mother decided to make a Hammer Horror film.
While the success of this cabaret lies with Suzanne Andrade’s imperious delivery and Esme Appleton’s vividly expressive face, it’s the nuances of the production that make it magical. The mixing of performers and film, used to great effect when characters run ‘into’ the screen, and the occasional bursts of song from pianist Lillian Henley are two cases in point.
Undoubtedly the pinnacle of the performance comes when the two actresses join forces to play murderous twins on the hunt for new playmates (their old ones, naturally, keep disappearing). As they make their inevitable march towards us, the nervous laughter around the room says it all: this is a production that captivates and consistently surprises its audience. I bet I wasn’t the only one who breathed an involuntary sigh of relief as I left that auditorium.