Heart-piercing and hilarious farce of three deaths
By Bradley Storer
Three deaths: the first, the death of the body. The second, the burial of the body. The last, the death of their name and memory forever. The first moments of this new work from Amberly Cull and Robert Woods (writers/composers of critically acclaimed The Point of Light) depict this first death of the eponymous Ebony Black, through a beautiful musical soundscape that relives Ebony’s glory days. Combined with Danny Miller’s gorgeously realised and intensely aged puppet, simultaneously operated by Cull and fellow performer Nick Pages-Oliver, it’s agonisingly beautiful to behold.
The plot then kicks into high-gear farce depicting the consequences of this first death, as Ebony’s relatives and friends gather for her funeral. Cull and Pages-Oliver have a roaringly good time animating multiple puppet characters with a variety of accents and voices. Cull’s beautiful soprano is utilised in several solos and blends with Oliver’s glorious baritone in duet, they even manage to perform a puppet kickline complete with choreography!
The pacing of this comedy of errors is high-speed with themes ranging from familial love and disappointment, class and wealth, hilariously brief existential crises. Even several missteps and errors across the evening didn’t feel out of place, they were laughed off and then leaped over to continue the show. Woods himself accompanies the evening, providing subtle but brilliant underscoring as well as a fantastic cameo later in the piece.
Without spoiling any of the classically farcical twists and turns the plot takes, the final section that wraps up the themes of the evening is beautifully poignant (and once again contains finely detailed puppets courtesy of Miller), but leaves one wondering what overall point, if any, Cull and Woods intend to convey.
Perhaps, as the characters themselves muse, there might be none except that which is created by the individual. Whatever the case, The Three Deaths of Ebony Black is nevertheless a hilariously and heart-piercingly charming hour of theatre.
The Three Deaths of Ebony Black runs at the Butterfly Club until 19 May. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107 .