I make no attempt to disguise my fondness for Battersea Arts Centre. It is one of the few venues that always fills me with a little tingle of excitement as I enter and pick up my tickets. It has a kind of life to it; an energy. I suppose it helps that most of what I’ve seen there this year I’ve really enjoyed (Iris Brunette, Security, Smile Off Your Face – though seen is probably not the correct word for that last one, given that I was blindfolded through most of it) and that it used to be a pleasant 15 minute walk from my front door, but still, my crabby public transport-fuelled mood faded almost immediately as I entered the theatre bar (yes, yes, I know).
Their current show, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, is not the easiest thing to categorize; the work of theatre company, 1927, it combines projected film and animation, live piano music and performance. Two actresses, with faces painted white and clipped, emotionless voices, play out a series of short stories: black little tales that owe much to Shock-headed Peter and the devil-centric fairy tales of Eastern Europe. The show itself is quite a slight thing. The writing is quite amusing, but really it’s the inventiveness of the staging, the combination of all the various elements, which makes the show so memorable.
The performers interact with the projections, which sometimes take the form of simple chalk drawings, sometimes more complex animations. On occasion the images were projected onto their clothes, for example, to illustrate the path of a gingerbread man through the digestive system (it makes sense in context). The best sequences involved a pair of suitably sinister ‘twins’; blank eyed, demonic creatures, who pulled some chap out of the audience and made him play at being their granny. It was all very funny, in a kind of wrong way rather than uproariously so, and over in about an hour and a quarter – so plenty of time for a post-show pizza at Donna Margherita’s across the street.
The details really made it: the usherette selling sweeties and programmes, the endearing opening set by flapper duo The Bees Knees, the way the entrance to the auditorium had been transformed into a gaping mouth (though swathing the hard bench seats with red fabric does not make them any more comfortable, they get points for trying), the little zoetrope – I think that’s what those spinny things are called - by the BAC entrance which I felt compelled to play with, and the fact that somewhere up above the theatre a huge, ripe moon was looming, even if it was disappointingly hidden by mist.