Welcome to The Librarians – an original play by Lewis Garvey where comedy monsters, improbable plots and scandalous secrets rampage across a setting that lies somewhere between The Addams family and “Samuel Beckett in his more ‘experimental’ phase’’.
Photo: The Minotaur Theatre Company
The characters of The Librarians have all, over the years, become trapped in the surrealistic abandoned space of ‘the old library’. By consequence, they have also all, over time, gone completely mad.
Being presented during the Edinburgh festival it’s no surprise the comedy moments come thick and fast. From the appearance of puppet character The Grim Reader, when the fake moustache of Harry Smith’s delusional Luxus Bulge falls off as if by accident, only to reveal another moustache underneath, or with an engagingly Looney-tunes-esque segment where the two rampaging librarians Harbach and Satz proceed to kill off a succession of chief librarians in ever more outlandish ways.
The elements of puppetry, along with an entirely acapella soundtrack work surprisingly well. Not to be missed was Ed Jones’ comically inspired turn as rock n’ roll librarian Dusty Lovejacket – a man who not only reinvented the library’s categorisation system entirely around his own philosophy of judging a book by its cover, but a character who also once heroically saved “almost one” whole Cambodian orphan from a forest fire.
The straight-faced comedy duo of female librarians Pollock and Trout, the “two fishy friends” is greatly enhanced by Pollock’s (Emily Holt’s) superb Birmingham accent. Not to mention Trout’s (Poppy Pedder’s) equally impressive comic timing! Michael Clark demonstrated his versatility in his numerous (and dizzying) series of ever-changing roles.
The Librarians’ literary puns and references are among some of its most effective gags. Percival Pulp (Michael Clarke) the chief librarian with a penchant for eating the books, refuses to eat a copy of Dickens on the grounds that it’s “too dry”.
Margot Murkintosh the murder-mystery obsessed librarian is duly murdered in classic poetically-just style, in the library with the knitting needles. Lead librarian Hardbach initially decides to poison the chief librarian with “Philip Larkin’s only foray into haiku” – a poem which is said to be “so poisonous that no publisher would entertain it”, drawing big laughs from the crowd. The way the play was heading, you would almost expect some kind of crowning satirical glory by proceeding to pull out all the stops and bust out into a rap-parody rendition of a Shakespeare epilogue.
Altogether, The Librarians is amusing and engaging, as well as impressively well-formed. It has the feel of a play that had been freely adapted and fashioned to an audience reception – one where they had kept what had worked and what they found funny and cut out what didn’t. Despite the surreal setting, the entire thing feels natural. It is a collaborative work of drama, where the actors have input and the cast had fun. The Librarians is definitely one to watch.