N&N Festival, Bells and Spells review: A true Festival highlight
- Credit: Richard Haughton
All is not what it seems in this glamorous and enchanting show, that offers a gentle and lulling mix of humour and beauty.
Aurélia Thierrée is the light-fingered lead, gliding through a series of surreal vignettes and compulsively stealing items as she goes: jewels, clothes, table lamps, loofahs - anything she can get her hands on.
She achieves these feats through dexterous sleight of hand and optical illusions: disappearing into thin air to escape a pursuit through a revolving door, repurposing a bejewelled lamp shade to become a tiara, using a closed umbrella as an impromptu net for her bounty.
Thierrée makes instant costume changes before your eyes, slips in and out of tapestries, and transforms a room full of hatstands into a skeletal chimera that she rides off into the flats.
In one scene she becomes part of a painting and her head becomes decapitated, bouncing up and down above her body before that too becomes disconnected from the background, allowing for body swaps with a man and a pug. It is silly, simple, but infectiously fun to watch.
This is deliciously light fare in the main, reminiscent of old school music hall magic that is heavy on clever lighting, physical placements, and limbersome bodies and pleasingly bereft of bombast.
The show is directed by Thierrée's mother Victoria Thierrée Chaplin and co-stars Jaime Martinez as an occasional love interest stroke mark. His dance and tap provide occasional interludes to the confounding dramatic scenes.
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The planning and preparation to pull off such a show - with so many props, so many switches and changes - is a mammoth task. Armando Santin's choreography is spot on, and Nasser Abdel Hammandi's lighting is a masterclass in keeping the right things visible and the mechanics just out of sight.
The original French production of the show was called Vols De Nuits - or Night Flights. That is perhaps a more fitting name: it rests on the edge of memory like one of those delightful but half-forgotten dreams, something you can't quite believe you really saw. A true Festival highlight.