The Titanic Orchestra

★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 12 Aug 2015

Four tramps wait at a deserted train station, somewhere in Eastern Europe. We don’t know how they came to be there, but we know they want to leave. Yet none of the passing trains ever stop at the station; they just slow down enough to dump their rubbish from the windows, covering the stage in a gradually deepening snowfall of litter as the play goes on.

The monotony is broken by the mysterious arrival of Harry (John Hannah), a debonair drunk with a silver tongue and the ability to magic bottles of beer from empty suitcases. He tells our gang he can help them escape – all they need to do is believe. 

It’s a promising set up, but Hristo Boytchev’s play (translated from the Bulgarian by Steve King for this UK premiere) never delivers on that promise, despite strong performances from the company and evocative set (Anthony Lamble), sound (Giles Thomas) and lighting designs (Colin Grenfell). None of the cast have been given much to work with, character having been sacrificed in favour of student-style philosophical exposition about nature of perception – it’s very hard to care about protagonists with back stories as vague as these.

Hannah acquits himself well in this showman role (at one stage magicking our filth-encrusted gang into the talented players of the orchestra of the title – why, it's hard to say), but even his considerable stage presence isn’t enough to distract from The Titanic Orchestra's plodding pace and shallow philosophising.