Little Wonder, The Librarian’s Joke

Review in Issue 18-2 | Summer 2006

It starts in the bar: a library trolley – laden with books, pushed by three young women in knee-length skirts and cardigans, a young man strumming a guitar. We’re handed books by the librarians and ushered in. The Braithwaite Hall at the Clocktower could have been made for this show: it provides a perfect site, oak-panelled and lined with rows of dusty old books And what a quaintly old-fashioned show this is! I don’t mean just in its subject matter (the story of a librarian and her now-dead beau): it has the feel of devised theatre from a decade or two ago – UK Lecoq-inspired companies such as Brouhaha, early Foursight Theatre.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – an observation rather than a criticism. There’s plenty to applaud in The Librarian’s Joke. It’s a neatly put together piece, using all the tricks of the physical theatre trade. There’s a gestural movement motif section of bookreading with crossing and uncrossing legs, which gives us a chance to focus on the librarians’ rather lovely primary-coloured patent shoes. There’s the three-people-all-playing-one-character device, with the donning of rose-pink dress denoting the taking on of that character, Rose the Librarian. There’s lots of play with objects, including some nice flying-books-on-strings stuff. Our token man, Malcolm the musician, moves from shelf to desk, pottering with laptop, guitar, xylophone, violin and even spoons, creating an interesting mix of live and pre-recorded sound. There’s an unusual use of an overhead projector, on which we see a mapping out of the paths through the library taken by Rose and the shy but smitten Pete, and also (guided by the OHP) we are given a witty musical run-through of the Dewey Decimal System

Oh, and we are also treated to a game of Dewey Decimal Bingo Reservations (excuse the pun). I come in feeling a little awkward about these stepping-out-of-the-box audience participations and interventions, and the jury’s out on the singing – irony intended, I presume, but it is still rather too cringy for me. But those little worries aside, it’s a very nice number, from a show with a golden heart.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-2
p. 30