VENUS & ADONIS | London, CLF Art Cafe Peckham

Imaginative, passionate and wild, New Renaissance Collective transform Shakespeare’s poem into an acutely poignant musical narrative complete with fever dreams, meat cleavers, and a genuinely terrifying wild boar.

The performance opens in a butcher’s shop. New girl Ness/Venus (Celia Learmonth) develops a crush on Aiden/Adonis (Hylton West), amidst merciless teasing by colleagues. The lovers’ chemistry is immediately palpable, both actors delivering sensitive and muscular performances. From this comic frame, the narrative blooms… literally, as a flower pushes magically though the tiled floor, transporting us to a mythical fantasia.

The wonderful chorus, lead by Titan/Head Butcher (Charlie Merriman), has the audience on the edge of their seats with their detailed physical-theatre storytelling. Camilla Seale and Rosalind Dobson’s twin voices underscore moments of tear-jerking poignancy, as musical director Frederick Waxman accompanies the action on lute (alongside bird whistle and hunting horn), lending a haunting nostalgia to the music, that provides the tragicomic action with a sparse grandeur.

Dramaturg and performer Angus Bower-Brown’s text is clear and sensuous throughout. Combined with Sam Rayner’s bravura direction, the result is totally captivating, inventive and immersive in equal measure. Death is a many-headed hydra emerging from an amniotic sack of gauze; one flick of a butcher’s cleaver transports us through parallel worlds; one moment lovers kiss, the next Adonis staggers back as blood pours from his mouth. This is tragicomedy played with integrity, as any glance at the hauntingly lit (Cathay Hamilton) cleavers suspended from the innovative set (Nik Corrall) reminds us.

Keep up to date with New Renaissance Collective’s upcoming projects online.

The Prickle - About transp