A Very Very Very Dark Matter – Bridge Theatre

Small skeletons. Time travel. Bloody Belgians.

Writer Martin McDonagh kicked off 2018 with one of the best movies of the year – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – and ends it with one of its weirdest plays.

Jim Broadbent plays Hans Christian Andersen, whose Very Very Very Dark secret is that he keeps imprisoned in a box in his attic in Copenhagen a small Congolese woman who writes all of his stories.

As if that’s not horrific enough, he’s also cut one of her legs off. Marjory, as he calls her, is played by newcomer Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles. It’s an unforgettable performance in a play full of moments you’ll never unsee.

There are laughs aplenty to be had amid the horror. Not least Andersen’s visit to an effing and blinding Charles Dickens (Phil Daniels) with a dark secret of his own.

What’s it all about? Colonialism (the blood-drenched Belgians)? Fake news? Who cares? It’s got a haunted concertina. Somehow I haven’t yet got round to mentioning the gravel-throated narration by Tom Waits.

By the end it all feels like some kind of twisted pantomime. Perhaps that’s why I’ve booked to see it again at Christmas.

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