Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea scored a rare triumph at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe by winning every award it could, including a gig in New York.
Its co-creator Suzanne Andrade said she was not just pleased with the production’s success, but also the way it came about.
It happened organically, Suzanne said.
Actually I hate that word, organically, but this is one of those times when it’s true! I’d been performing solo in the performance poetry scene in London, which is a very peculiar little scene that takes place in about four pubs, and my work was mainly little stories told over pre-recorded music.
But I’d been looking to work with a filmmaker for a while, then Paul Barritt heard me on the radio and got in touch. So we put a little show together, and that expanded it into something new, and we got great feedback.
Then Esme Appleton, who’s been my best friend since uni days, joined us, and her approach is different again. Then we decided we needed live music, and Lillian Henley came in, and when we put it together it got an amazing reaction, and we knew we were on to something.
Andrade said the addition of each person and their skills changed the way the performers worked as the show developed.
The format has remained fairly stable, it’s still a series of self-contained stories. There’s a loose narrative that runs through the show, but it’s the live music that brings it together, she said.
When we added it, we suddenly found that we had something theatrical in a way that hadn’t been there before.
You get a hint at what the show’s about from the title, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The stories at the heart of the piece are monologues about the many curious characters that inhabit the world, many of whom find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Add to that a unique visual impact, described by one commentator as a silent film with words, and you’re starting to get an idea of what the show is like.
The style of delivery draws on older approaches, Andrade said. It’s delivered in arty accents that hark back to old films, very 30s, and it has a sepia look to it as well.
But the technology behind it is amazing. Like the crackling noise you hear that reminds you of grainy old films. We actually pulled that off old film stock and digitised it.
This is another place where the music really comes into its own, too, because Lilly scores the show like a silent movie, and the music anchors the whole piece. And it’s so varied, the music references everything from torch songs and Kurt Weill to Satie. There’s a lot in it.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea plays at The Studio, Sydney Opera House, 17-28 June. Bookings: 9250 7777 or at www.sydneyoperahouse.com.