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Public Reviews

At the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol BS3 audiences are always assured of quality theatre and an exhilarating variety of productions. Breaking into the routine of regular Monday thru Saturday performances, TFT has squeezed in a couple of highly entertaining shows this Sunday, March 11th repeated on the 18th next Sunday.

Featured, are the extraordinarily talented Devil’s Violin ensemble comprising a story-teller, Daniel, plus Oliver playing violin and viola, (not both at the same time) with Sarah on cello, all displaying great skills and empathy with each other. Daniel relates and enacts fascinating stories, bringing to life, many magical and enchanting characters, as he interacts with his musical accompanists, through many adventures, dangers and delights, slyly throwing in amusing references to present-day issues that relieve the extremer moments of tension with witty humour in his riveting tale.

No hackneyed style in Daniel’s telling, no laboured repetition such as the ancient bards recited in their tired tales, no stylised format to help him remember the many twists and surprises which make his tale enthralling to hear. Of all the story-tellers this reviewer has heard and seen, Daniel is the most entertaining and his virtuosic performance compels audience attention in a most enjoyable way.

Every slight glance and posture, every expression through his face, body-language, even his precise hand gestures add colour and make visible in imagination, every object and character he introduces. His princely hero, whose parents are unorthodox for royalty, his elder brothers are evil in their ingratitude, the Evil Pale King and his fearsome sword. The beautiful princess is a proto-feminist who breaks with conventional ‘princessiness’ to thrust vitality into what else could have been an everyday story of royal offspring overcoming adversity and living happily ever after.

Daniel displays every brilliant trick for keeping us listening spellbound to each nuance of the emotions and events he skillfully slips into the narrative. Yet backing him up through every moment, are the instrumentalists, Oliver and Sarah, together creating sensuous atmosphere to match the story’s every variation in mood by playing their instruments with exquisite sensitivity.

Suitable for children aged from ten, The Devil’s Violin ensemble are in fact more entertaining for adults appreciative of intelligent plots, ‘tho’ in the tradition of children’s fairy-tales but told without childish pretensions. The words are delivered frankly and altogether, this is as perfectly formed a piece of theatre as many a hugely expensive extravaganza; It’s just on a smaller scale but as lovingly crafted as theatre goers could wish.

Arthur Duncan