When I crept down the stairs into the stage pit of Bristol Old Vic, I had a slim notion of what was going to happen but the reality was something much more impressive.
As with most things I do, see or visit, I try not to do too much research beforehand. When you can Google a new play, place or city and by the time you’ve finished trawling through websites and scrolling through photos it’s like you’ve already seen it or visited it. So in the same fashion, I had very little knowledge of what Raymondo would be about or be like.
In the intimate, dark stage we’re greeted with a living room set up, with patterned rugs from the 70s (?!) and table lamps with the lampshades that have tassels hanging from them bottom of them (you know the ones I mean). On walks two actors, one sets up in one living room area with a guitar and amp, the other underneath a glowing bare lightbulb at the centre back stage. And we begin 70 minutes of utter genius.
After a relative short introduction, the two young brothers, Raymondo and Sparky, escape the basement room they are locked up in after an incident with a pigeon and persuading the house maid to let them go outside. The story then unfolds into a continuing twist of hope and despair.
Changing between the front of the stage, the back of the stage and the keyboard, the multi-talented Annie Siddons, narrator, curator and all round creative wonder woman, takes you deep into the boys’ struggle for survival in an illegal sweatshop.
Narrating all characters, except Sparky, and weaving the commentary of the plot, Annie keeps us gripped with the elation of escape, the kindness of strangers and the broken trust of others. It doesn’t end well for one of the boys, but I don’t think I’ve been to a performance before where the heartbreaking topic of death has been wealth in such an uplifting way.
While the opportunity to see Raymondo at Bristol Old Vic has come to an end, it is touring and dates of performances are available on Annie Siddon’s website and I would highly recommend going to see it.
Credit must also be given to the guitarist who continuously plays throughout the whole performance to add that third dimension to the show – see, hear and feel the emotions of this wonderful, dark but humorous narration.
This post first appeared on 14 October 2015 on Bristol #PROSPECTUS, a project that has now ended.