The Infamous Brothers Davenport and their spectacular stage séance

The historical life narrative of the naughty brothers Ira and Willie, played by Ryan and Scott Fetcher, brothers in real life, was a comical retort about the subtle boundary between reality and illusion. At least such was the ambitious goal of the creators of the play as they share in the theatre programme. The accuracy of the story, of the American brothers involved in the early acts of spiritualism in Victorian society, was further enhanced by the deliberate choice of the Victorian Royal Lyceum theatre by the Glasgow based Vox Motus artistic directors Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds with the help of the playwright Peter Arnott.  

The Royal Lyceum Theatre via Flickr

Arnott’s script follows the threads of a séance in which the audience is successfully and diligently engulfed, and turned participants along with the victimized Lady Noyes-Woodhull (Anita Vettesse) at whose honour and appeal the séance is taking place, entangling frequently with the background story of a family terror, torment and sexual abuse of the brothers’ older sibling Katy. And if the evidence of spirits was perceived seriously by the Victorian intellectuals at the time, manifested via  the act of instruments’ play in a magic box in which the brothers were tied and locked, for the contemporary viewer it is just a piece of low bred entertainment trick. However, the abundance of other stage tricks offered a delightful feast for the eyes together with the good actors’ play and the exciting stage set designed by David Graham.

Despite the warm feeling of bondage with the rest of the audience members (the audience was asked to hold the hands of the people sitting next to them briefly at the start of the show) and the exciting stage design, the extra and fictional contextualizing of the story with the personal aspects of family life, took away, in my opinion, part of the mystery and turned it into a flat demonstration of period drama.

The Infamous Brothers Davenport Vox Motus stayed faithful to their theatrical style of creating ingenious stage design. Undoubtedly, the collaboration with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh is a step further in their creative and artistic growth and input of Scottish theatre.

The play is performed until 11 February 2012 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. Expect (just three or four of the spectators) to be invited to take part in the play and asked to dress in stunning 19th century Victorian costumes to match the act.

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