Yeast Nation: The Triumph of Life evaluation – a defeat for theatre | Theatre

This 2007 comedy musical options all-singing, all-dancing debris of yeast, swimming on an ocean ground greater than 3 billion years in the past. But there are few laughs in a display that belongs again within the experimental petri dish of badly misjudged concepts from which it arose.

It is first of all larky as 8 figures wearing inexperienced frame socks and frou-frou netting emerge from beneath a white sheet. They may well be yeast however they resemble extras from Wicked; one even carries a broomstick, even though as an ensemble in addition they appear to be historical prototypes of that display’s flying monkeys.

The first choice of Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’s ranking, Hear the Song, is catchy and the voices and melodies are sturdy all the way through. The downside is the garbled plot, the loss of distinct and engaging characters and any sense of coherent which means from the e book and ranking, then again exuberantly it’s delivered – and there’s no loss of dedication from the performers.

Self-consciously japey … Yeast Nation at Southwark Playhouse. Photograph: PR

A Lear-like king of the yeast cells known as Jan the Eldest (Christopher Howell) seems together with his kids, all in a similar way named (Shane Convery performs Jan the Wise, Stephen Lewis-Johnston performs Jan the Second Eldest, Hannah Nuttall is Jan the Sweet and so forth). Some scheme to depose him. There are mentions of a traitor of their midst. If that is the primordial ocean, it resembles a Jacobean court docket with single-cell organisms that talk like water-borne Richard IIIs.

There is a subplot concerning the loss of meals, with references to fatty cells and “muck” being eaten. Little is defined or expanded on. A repeated pun about “rising” yeast grows dressed in. A menacing crimson hand puppet turns up in some other complicated flip.

Directed via Benji Sperring, the display hums with a self-consciously japey sense of being so dangerous it’s excellent till it turns into merely, outrightly dangerous. The choreography is minimum, repetitive and choked at the crowded degree, with actors transferring their limbs in the similar few wibbling motions to remind us they’re underneath the ocean.

Diego Pitarch’s set design is composed of dumpy gray bean-bags, which symbolize rocks, and a round trolley – it’s by no means made transparent what a trolley is doing at the ocean mattress. Nic Farman’s lighting fixtures is continuously bilious inexperienced, as though a bucket of slime has been thrown around the manufacturing. If that is an strive at absurdist theatre, it comes off as a leftfield faculty live performance long gone awry.

Proceedings plunge to an rock bottom with the music Stasis is the Membrane (“that keeps everything together, through all kinds of weather”). Lyrics proceed on this vein, sounding like they’ve arrived out of the mess of the diluvial swamp themselves. Passion enters the plotline with the music Love Equals Pain however it’s arduous to elicit who has fallen in love with whom and the way this pertains to the remainder of the tale.

Also, by no means thoughts the ache of affection. Theatre can equivalent ache too. Whatever excellent religion there is without doubt one of the target audience at the start is curdled after two hours and 40 mins on press evening in an oppressively sizzling auditorium. It all appears like protracted self-indulgence. Best put again within the petri dish and left in an eternity of ideal fungal isolation.

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