There is something in DoppelDänger that makes me think of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Something about the silliness and the rocking out with recorder and synths creates a similar sense of irreverent time-hopping. And also the fact it’s enormous fun.
The show plays out a bit like a staged concept album – while there are interludes, scraps and sketches of clowning in which the performers mainly stay silent or talk in fast, muttered French, it is the songs that are the centrepiece, a mix of original works and covers. These address a range of topics related to the central conceit of the Doppelganger: there are songs of fear, jealously, confusion and self-doubt. The songs are witty and well-written, and there are a couple that are (as the kids say) absolute bangers.
What’s more watching the songs being performed is completely engrossing – both Pastor and Turner are incredibly multi-talented, not only playing multiple instruments but swapping between them within songs, playing while performing dance routines and generally clowning around. For this reason it is often during the songs where the pair most successfully create the uncanny sense of the Doppelganger – mirroring, switching, interchanging with each other in increasingly fast or implausible ways.
The other starring role alongside the music is the costumes designed by Sarah Munro. They’re fantastic throughout, shifting to support the action and songs, but absolutely nothing could beat the Renaissance Playsuits. RENAISSANCE! PLAYSUITS! If the fashion world does not take notice and make them available in all good retailers by next month you may find me staging a heist to steal them from the company’s dressing room. The outfits perfectly matched the anachronistic joy of the show and helped create the sense that the show was some strange glimpse into another world.
The sketches, while not often reaching the heights of the songs, are really funny. Absurd and well choreographed with the lovely sense that the performers are meandering through comic territory rather than rushing straight to the punchline. While it contained both, the show leant much more heavily into its silliness than its weirdness, and I feel it could have benefitted from further exploring the weird eerie snatches of unison storytelling or interjections of seemingly unconnected thoughts. Some images invoked are just so gorgeous and unexpected (such as two saints intersecting halos creating a Venn diagram) that it feels a shame the show doesn’t pursue them more.
These constant retreats into silliness also feel like they slightly prevent the show from progressing, and some of the later portions feel a little underpowered as a result with the themes of the piece neither quite coalescing into a coherent whole or branching out to new territory. One example is when a sudden turn near the end of the show sees a beautiful and moving use of the figure of the Doppelganger as a call for kindness, commonwealth and open borders (‘One more mouth to feed. One more mouth to sing. One more mouth to kiss.’) The moment is wonderfully put together but without any build-up to it or connections to other parts of the piece the emotions within it feel a little unearned.
However these elements do not stop the show from being a fantastic piece to watch. If you want something hilarious then you should definitely go, and if you want something weird then there will probably be enough there for you too.
DoppelDänger was on from 20 – 23 June 2018 at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol. Click here for more details.