Theatre Review: EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS by People Zoo Productions

EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS by People Zoo Productions. Photo: Tom Barker

Bold, bizarre and a little bonkers, EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! captures the peculiar atmosphere of the Victorian freak show

In 1881, the famed and enigmatic impresario Mr Edward Gant presented his renowned travelling show for the final time: a bizarre evening of grotesquery, black comedy and mystery. Over a century later, Gant’s final show is reconstructed in an intriguing and fantastical piece of theatre performed by People Zoo Productions.

EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! tells the story of the Victorian moustachioed, top-hatted, opiate-addicted showman as he performs his travelling show for the last time. But before he takes his final bow, Gant has a few more marvels to show us, bizarre stories of human suffering and romance, from the facially deformed Italian lady who can squeeze her pimples to produce pearls to the grief-stricken Edgar, whose dead beloved’s face haunts him so dreadfully that he seeks a drastic solution with the aid of a fake fakir.

Bold, bizarre and a little bonkers, EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! combines melodrama and extravagance with painful loneliness. Much of the entertainment lies in the way in which the production captures the peculiar atmosphere of the Victorian freak show. Expect magic and wonder, gorgeous costumes and occasional assaults on your sensitivities, all delivered with panache and the tongue firmly in cheek.

Shaun Hennessy, Moureen Louie, Matthew Gee and Stewart Campbell perform with delightful flourish and precision, displaying an amazing depth of talent as the travelling show actors Sgt Jack Dearlove, Madame Poulet, Nicholas Ludd and Edward Gant respectively, as well as a host of other characters including bears and an actor who dries.

Yet while People Zoo perform with gusto, the show veers suddenly from fantasy and intrigue to a something much more dark and sinister in the second act. The audience are somewhat startled back to reality as the writer turns the tables back on his characters and the nature of theatre itself. The overall grotesque nature of EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! also won’t be to everyone’s taste and those with a particular weak stomach may want to avoid.

That said, People Zoo’s reconstruction of Anthony Neilson’s pioneering play is both funny and absurd, boasting some superb acting, a few disgustingly gross moments and an excellent lighting design by Alice Longson. You also won’t forget the thought-provoking finale in a hurry.

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

EDWARD GANT’S AMAZING FEATS OF LONELINESS! runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 14 October 2017

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1