The immediate impression one has on first experiencing the set of Raymondo is a positive one; the sultry light of a number of vintage lamps dimly illuminating the distressed, but homely, items of furniture create a welcoming and rather beautiful impression, while, at the same time, the slightly haunting aesthetic is redolent with the promise the imminent revelation of secrets – it is a set, in short, about story-telling.
And the rest of the piece largely lives up to this promise; the show essentially consists of Annie Siddons, writer and performer, embarking on an epic one hour monologue which tells the tale of two young boys who escape captivity, only to be confronted by a world that is, in many ways, even more dangerous and confusing than the prison they have just left. The monologue is accompanied by the singularly talented Tom Adams, who enriches the story with evocative and ethereal music, delivered with consummate skill via a guitar and loop pedal. The two work well together, with Siddons occasionally facilitating the musical ambience by accompanying Adams on a keyboard, and he, for his part, interjecting here and there with pithy dialogue to great effect. The script is good – inventive, evocative, visceral, funny, and with some deliciously illustrative and originally phrased epigrams which really shine out in further enhancing the quirky, bohemian feel of the piece. And the subject matter, too, is engaging – the surreal adventures of Raymondo and Sparky touch on themes of child abuse, both private and commercial, brotherly devotion, and the search for true companionship in an unforgivingly capitalist society.
There are a few elements in the execution which could do with addressing, however. Siddons, while clearly very attached to this work, and her passion does come through, might consider giving the text a little more colour; she has a tendency to sit outside the text and deliver it in a slightly monotonous, self-referentially ‘I’m telling a story’ kind of way, the inherent irony of which doesn’t allow her (or, consequently, the audience), to get really excited about the story, or paint the pictures the beautiful imagery at her disposal might otherwise evoke. This style does fit the aesthetic, but might prove a bit of a struggle for an audience in a warm, dark room who are being asked to concentrate on some very complex and surreal text for over an hour. A little more dynamism and colour in delivery could go a long way here. Also, in the few moments where the tempo does increase, the guitar picks up in recognition, effective in and of itself, but there is a slight technical issue with levels, meaning that significant parts of the text are rather lost in the enthusiasm of riffs.
Overall, however, but for a slight over-reliance on poetry over performance, this is a very beautiful and inventive piece, demonstrating clear heart and talent from both artists – a moving piece of modern theatre. 4/5
Review written by James Adams.
Raymondo is currently showing at the Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 3rd October. For more information on the production, visit here…