Oranges and Elephants ★★✰✰✰
Originally conceived in 2013 by Lil Warren, ‘Oranges and Elephants’ tell the story of two female gangs in London in the Victorian Era. The Oranges, a girl gang in Brixton led by their boss, Flo played by Kate Adams, and the ‘Elephants’, an Irish girl gang bounded by the family code, based in Elephant and Castle’s Woolworth road.
Being shown in Hoxton Hall, London, the place brings some authenticity to the musical, the old music hall creates a great backdrop for the narrator, the Chair played by Susannah van den Berg and her piano player Doreen, played by one of the co-founders of the inclusive theatre pioneers of Chickenshed, Jo Collins.
Van den Berg had great energy and as soon as the show started she had the crowd laughing with her large personality which came through as soon as she stepped on stage, she had great chemistry with Collins and their witty banter was none stop.
The girls in the gang all played instruments and they were used throughout the show, the girls were either in the wings or on the stage playing the violin, cello … there was even a flute involved, they used this very well and allowed the cast to be a part of the orchestra as well as the show.
As the show went on I thought Ada, second in command of the Oranges played by Rebecca Bainbridge tried a little to hard to bring her character to life. Ada is a psychopath and although that came across very well in Bainbridge’s performance, it became a bit uneasy to watch her bring manly ways to her character. Ada is still female, every move Bainbridge took, I couldn’t figure out if Ada was meant to be in a girl gang or wanting to be apart of the male gangs that ran Soho and Piccadilly.
My other issue with the Oranges was their leader, Flo. Now Flo was mentioned in the show as the ‘worst female in London’, she was scary, people were frightened of her, unfortunately, Adams was neither. I wasn’t convinced of her leadership within the gang, she looked too soft and the delivery of her lines didn’t make me feel anything towards her.
The Elephants, led by Annie, Liz Kitchen with second in command, Nellie, played by Christina Tedders were great, the energy portrayed by Tedders was seen on stage and she made it her own, she can play the thief but also the lost little girl who just wanted to sing.
When Nellie meets Mary, a young girl from the black country played by Sinead Long who had been captured by the Oranges, do you start to feel sorry for both girls, they want to sing in music halls but have somehow been caught up in a life of crime.
Both girls performances were very strong, Long, was very convincing as a scared girl, on her own for the first time in London.
This musical isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I can see why people enjoy it, there also an extra added bonus of the sing-along, everyone got song sheets and Van der Berg got the audience singing with no hesitation.
The show is running at the Hoxton Hall, London until the 10th February 2018