2Magpies: Serenade

2Magpies Theatre took over Antalya to perform their fledgling show and devour a delicious three course meal.

2Magpies Matt Wilks Nottingham Serenade Theatre Tom Barnes Zack Fox

Conventional theatre is an inherently solitary experience, the silence and attention of patrons demanded by the ostracising force of darkness. Naturally then, Matthew Wilks and Tom Barnes have decided to turn the entire process on its head with the first production from their infant theatre company 2Magpies: Serenade.

Set in a real restaurant, Serenade redefines what we mean by ‘naturalistic.’ It goes beyond labels and into its own territory of intrigue and immersion.

For the audience, what starts as a frankly delicious meal in the aesthetically pleasing Antalya restaurant becomes a devilish social experiment, playing with the notion of voyeurism and the conflation of theatrical/social experience to create something truly unique.

Actors James Pardon and Ginny Lee, playing off-kilter doppelgangers, enjoy a meal that ranges from humorous anecdote to deeply personal revelation.

In a Curb Your Enthusiasm style, Serenade is a construction of guided improvisation, meandering through a series of topic checkpoints without scripted dialogue, only the atmosphere of the room (and whim of the waitress) for assistance. It takes immense skill and no end of sheer gall to pull off, something which Pardon and Lee achieve with effortless chemistry.

It goes without saying that Serenade is a logistical nightmare, demanding a sense of fluency across factors as diverse as seating plans to meal times. Fortunately, producer Nicola Fox and her apparent four pairs of arms, managed to keep all of the plates spinning in harmony.

Serenade is an experiment, from top to toe, and is naturally not a perfect package. Much of the post show chatter – or is that ‘dinner chatter’? – focused on the brevity and desire for more. An odd request perhaps, with three courses of food on hand, but the cliffhanger ending is brutally teasing.

Though maybe that is the point: 2Magpies have only just hatched and Serenade is an accomplished debut, clear evidence that theatre is about far more than just the show.