I can definitely say that I have never seen anything like this production before. Company One’s Production of Shockheaded Peter (that took place at Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre) has all the excitement, fear, and thrills that would come from a combination of American Horror Story’s Freak Show infused with Grimm fairy tales. In this particular show, the story was based off of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter a children’s story that Hoffmann wrote for his three year old son as a lesson for proper moral instruction. In the original 1998 production, Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch of London’s Improbable Theatre teamed up with The Tiger Lillies to create what is now Shockheaded Peter. In this new creation Company One teamed up with Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys to re orchestrate the original music that was in The Tiger Lillies production.
Now on to the show! I went on a pretty busy Sunday and found myself sitting in the very front row. I never sit up front in any show and I was particularly nervous about this one in particular. As soon as the play began the MC tip toes (that what’s I’m going to call it) onto the stage and directly delivers her lines to the entire audience and most definitely the front row. I had no idea of what to expect from this show but I knew that I was going to be in for quite a ride. The show down to the costuming and the set was spot on. It combined this sense of antiquity with a fusion of modern and definitely in your face. It reminded me of what Alice might have seen as she fell down the Rabbit hole. The music by Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys really helped to drive the story. I was shocked by how much I actually enjoyed listening to the music and left the show being more curious about the bands own style of music.
Now maybe it’s me and maybe I’m getting a lot older sooner than I thought, but the music was far far too loud for me. It was definitely a stylistic choice in the production for the audience to be bombarded with certain notes and words that Sickert sang out (which I recognized was a choice) I just wish I had been sitting farther away. In fact, because it was so loud I found myself trying to distance myself from the story and checking out throughout the production because of it. Maybe that was a possible intention maybe that was my own experience. If I had been sitting farther away from the stage I’m sure I would not have felt as overwhelmed from the performance. In fact, I had conversations with friends who went to see the production and the music was never overbearing to them at all because they sat farther away.
The actual story was something I had never imagined I could see on stage before. I felt I had seen movies that encapsulated the sense of this play and it was exciting to see it take place in a theatrical setting. The puppets were incredible! I have never seen puppets in a play before (I know strange right?) and every time a puppet was brought out I would get so excited and would stare at it the entire time it was on stage. It added to this surreal nature of the story and alongside the music I was so immersed in the grotesque story. I found myself cringing a lot at the images on the wall and the kills of these young kids. I found myself watching and remembering “Oh wow, these are dying children”. I would find myself laughing until I was hit with that reality and the play kept taking on new meanings.
I am always thrilled to watch a Company One production because I love that every time I go see a show there I’m seeing something different. There’s never a throughline in any of their productions other than the make you really think. What an interesting afternoon I had of happily falling down the Rabbit Hole into Not so wonderful Wonderland.