fringe: the baby farmer

adelaide fringe: the baby farmer
I don't believe I've ever gone to a play before that also had both a book and an art exhibition associated with it...

But that's probably the least weird thing about The Baby Farmer by The Laudanum Project.

I'll be honest though, the show was trying too damn hard to be weird. From the creepy (yet beautifully detailed) art by Chloe Neath outside the space, the dismembered baby dolls on spikes as set decoration, to the makeup and costume of the duo, to the lighting and music... it was trying very hard to creep the audience out. Now dark and creepy is very often right in my wheelhouse, so this should have been likewise, but it all smacked of just doing too much.

And looking through The Laudanum Project website, the characters they were presenting weren't specific to this show, it seems like they have those characters in everything they do... Alphonse Cheese-Probert (Nick Ravenswood) and Captain Enoch Malleus (Gareth Skinner). Although we were never introduced to them as their characters in this show.

I'll also say that having Skinner on stage providing the live musical accompaniment to Ravenswood's performance was at times a little distracting and a touch louder that I think was needed. I did wonder more than once if I would have been more engaged if it was just Ravenswood up on stage alone with the music either provided live but off-stage or just as prerecorded sound.

Having said all of that, the actual story that Ravenswood was telling was interesting.

The baby farming of the title was the practice of "accepting custody of an infant or child in exchange for payment" in late-Victorian Britain and the play tells the tale of 6 year old Agatha May and her mentally ill mother Winnifred Alcorn.

I think it's possibly the tale of the Alcorns was inspired in part by the tale of Amelia Dyer, the most notorious baby farmer of her day.

Ravenswood does command the stage well and his voice and delivery are perfectly suited for this kind of supernatural tale. I just couldn't connect with the material as much as I would have liked, it just felt like there were just too many layers of artifice in the way between me and it. The most effective and interesting part of the whole show for me was at the very end during the scenes in the prison.

But at the end of the day I really wanted to like this more than I ultimately did.

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