Theatre review: Hummingbird

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A startling narrative dance performance from Tooth+Nail Theatre Company, Hummingbird takes its inspiration from the Lonely Hearts Killers, an American couple in the late 1940s who met their victims through classified ads.

Told in fragmented flashback as an investigating detective (Adam Gordon) looks on, we meet undertaker’s assistant Edith Cole (Harriet Feeny), who’s swept off her feet when she meets Ralph Conti (Francois Lecomte) via a lonely hearts service. Conti makes his money mooching off other lonesome women looking for companionship; that income funds his and Cole’s life together, until jealousy gets the better of her.

In contrast with their heinous acts, Cole and Conti’s relationship is presented as a sepia-toned doomed romance not a million miles from Badlands or Bonnie and Clyde. They’re two maladjusted young folk rejected by society who find solace in each other – the murders (glimpsed only elliptically) are an unfortunate by-product of their destructive emotional intensity.

The staging and choreography are immaculate – a constantly flipped and rotated dining table is at one point the centrepiece of Cole and Conti’s initial domestic harmony; at another, it’s upended and almost pins Cole down as she cowers from an antagonist. Amid this bi­polar atmosphere of overjoyed infatuation and murderous passion, there are moments of humour: Cole takes a quick break from preparing a ­client to note down the lonely hearts address, using the deceased as a desk.

Well-observed details of sound and costume root the production in a clearly defined time and place: each ghostly victim is brought to life through a melancholy collection of vintage hats, dresses and shoes, while the constant thrum of jazz and regular radio interruptions root the action in a specific post-Depression America – ample credit also to sound tech Tom Feeny for steering the ship faultlessly.

Until 29 August. Today 9:15pm.

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