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Echoes of Brighton

Sunday, 9 May, 2010

Busking, murder and lady luck

Brighton – White Room Theatre – The Old Courtroom – 8th, 15th, 16th, 23rd May 2010 19.00 (1.00)

Three actors tell an individual story as one of Brighton’s well-known residents.  The show begins with old slides showing scenes from Brighton’s past whilst fairground music plays.

There is an outstanding performance by Israel Oyelumade as Ras Prince Monolulu, funny and memorable; the best is saved till last.

A blind man walks onstage touching black boxes with his cane.  Lewis McKale as The Blind Busker affects an old man cockney voice and gets upset and emotional about something.  Lewis McKale’s efforts to portray a much older blind man are admirable.  His costume of brown cap, bow tie, brown check trousers, and waistcoat looks early 20th century.  He completes the look by balancing a self-grown furry caterpillar on his upper lip.

The Blind Busker has a long monologue explaining how he moved from London to Brighton and fell in love with Alice.  He never saw her face but loves her voice and her movements.  He regrets something and over fifteen minutes his story of regret is explained and it ends on a nursery rhyme which is sung with a mixture of sorrow and happiness.  As Lewis McKale departs the stage, photos of the historical figure ‘Blind Harry’ playing his accordion on Brighton seafront are shown on screen.

A woman with long dark hair enters wearing an ankle length white nightgown and white shawl.  She is barefoot.  She sits on a black box and starts talking breathlessly about a late night tryst.  She sounds in love and sad.  Her lover is married and a doctor.  At work he is professional and clinical, with her he is a beast clawing at her skin.  She enjoys it.  Miss Edmunds is infatuated with Doctor Beard and wants to elope with him.  Alex Childs as Christiana Edmunds is engaging as this rejected lover determined to hurt as she has been hurt – she is one of Brighton’s infamous children.    Christiana’s revenge extends to her lover’s wife then to any child who will eat one of her poisoned chocolates.  The chocolate boxes are tied with pink ribbons for girls.  Blue ribbons for boys.  She mocks their greedy consumption on her last night alive as she waits for the noose.

Unfortunately there are a couple of technical problems at this stage in the production, a blue screen and newspaper articles shown out of sequence but these do not detract from the performance given by Alex Childs who convinces as the mad, bad and sad Miss Edmunds.

A most colourful character enters to the sound of horses hooves: Ras Prince Monolulu played by Israel Oyelumade.  He’s just won £500.  He’s wearing white trousers, black boots, white shirt with ruffles, a bright yellow jacket with black and gold mirrored glass circles and a head-dress with cabaret feathers.

He is a breath of fresh air with energy and good humour.  His tale of travel to England from Africa includes multiple baptisms and explains how he became a ‘prince’.  He finds that Londoners like him to be ‘exotic’ and he is happy to please if it works in his favour.  When sales of his useless potions declines he travels to Brighton selling rude postcards and there finds his fortune as a tipster and begins his courtship of ‘Lady Luck’.

Prince Monolulu has ‘pretty advice for pretty ladies’.  It is 1920.  The derby.  The sound of horses hooves.  He smacks his bum like the jockey.  The surprise on his face when the horse romps in is funny, joyous and unforgettable due to Israel Oyelumade’s acting.

It is evident a lot research went into all parts, these monologues are written well by Ella Hickson.

Cast Credits:  Alex Childs – Christiana Edmunds.  Lewis McKale – The Blind Busker – Harry Vowles.  Israel Oyelumade – Ras Prince Monolulu.

Company Credits:  Writer – Ella Hickson.  Directors – Mike Stubbs and Nick Brice.  Soundscapes – Alistair Lock.  Technical Manager – Zak Bichon-Flannery.  Venue Manager and Director – Tony Jaffe.  Photographs – Chris Vowles.  Producers – Mike Stubbs and Nick Brice.  Company – Bite-Size.  http://www.bite-size.org.

(c) Wendy Thomson 2010

reviewed Saturday 8 May 2010

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