Inventive adaptation of Gallic animated classic
This article is from 2011.
The main difference between FellSwoop’s adaptation of Belleville Rendez-vous and Sylvain Chomet’s animated original is the setting: while Chomet jumped right into the life of a pint-sized grandmother and her recently-orphaned bicycle-loving grandson, the theatre company first establishes the Belleville Cabaret Bar as a space in which the story will be acted out. Musicians sit visibly at the side of the stage, while the bohemian cast operate puppets, move sets and take on inanimate prop roles as needed, without shattering the narrative universe.
Those familiar with the film will not be disappointed: all the significant set-pieces are in place: the Tour de France kidnapping of the grown boy; the pedalo journey across the ocean; right up to the climactic car chase. FellSwoop, embracing the limitations of film-to-stage adaptation, even apply some bold stylistic changes, such as a bicycle-wheel seascape and a French conversation with live translation (the rest of the play, like the film, is almost entirely dialogue-free). Those who haven’t seen the movie may struggle to decipher some of the more abstract scenes, but this just gives them a barely-necessary reason to seek it out.
Bedlam Theatre, 225 9893, until 20 Aug, 11am, £8 (£20 Family).