Venom so Sweet – Theatre Upstairs – Review by Frank L.
Written by Roger Gregg
The stage of Theatre Upstairs is compact. The set comprises an empty wooden doorway which projects to the front of the stage. The set also has a full-sized key board, a stand on which a saxophone rests plus a set of drums. There are in addition four actors who play a variety of musical instruments. The principal is Legg (Roger Gregg) who represents a series of individuals who personify certain human vices, namely ignorance, pride, fear and greed. They are Serpent Demon (Alicky Hess), Jezebel Demon (Juliette Crosbie) and Sorceress Demon (Madi O’Carroll) and each of them has their face painted. He is dressed in a black suit with a flat cowboy hat. The Demons wear lascivious costumes which have tones of what might be seen in a cowboy saloon bar. Legion morphs through various guises such as an old-time preacher, a con artist and other unsavoury characters speaking in an American accent emanating from the South. The three Demons move around the stage often in suggestive poses and are in effect supports for Legion’s motley collection of characters.
There is a strong musical element throughout for which Roger Gregg is also responsible. According to the programme notes he is “one of a handful of truly great radio dramatists.” There are many changes of scene as the various characters are revealed, but because the stage is so cluttered the actors are forced to clamber at times around the stage. They have little space in which to move easily. In this regard it is interesting to note that in the programme, no-one is credited as the set designer.
A considerable amount of work and energy has gone into this production, particularly the songs. It was therefore a pity that the piece’s visual needs did not receive the same attention.