Peablossom Cabaret

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014


Isobel Cockerell

at 00:51 on 13th Aug 2014



On entering the dingy and rather greasy Dario’s restaurant – a deserted establishment, save for family of five sitting miserably around a plate of chips – one’s heart immediately sinks. There is nothing visible to advertise the showing of Peablossom Cabaret, and one is immediately convinced it’s the wrong place. Weave your way to the back, however, and you’ll find two mad-looking thesps lurking there. Decked out in waistcoats and corsets, with strange, winsome painted faces, Oxford-educated Sylvia Bishop and Dylan Townley make a picturesque pair. They are proper, old-fashioned English eccentrics, and indeed during the show a few jokes and a song about the upcoming Scottish referendum must inevitably come up.

Peablossom Cabaret is a bizarre two-man performance – and it’s quite unclear what exactly it’s about. It would be pointless trying to explain it. Every show must be wildly different. The two improvise songs based on the audience’s whims, and a weird, and wonderfully unpredictable atmosphere is created.

Both Bishop and Townley have a lot of raw talent. Townley carries the show and involves himself with the audience with wonderfully amusing panache. His piano playing is at times a little dubious, but it’s all part of the charm. Bishop, meanwhile, has a certain graceful wit and is an amusing and adept poet, singer and, (briefly) rapper.

Some of the more permanent, politically-oriented content – such as their song ‘Scot Free’ and a fleeting discussion of the situation in Pakistan – is also the strongest, and it seems a shame there is not more of it. The problem with incessant improv, particularly when based on the contributions of members of the audience, is that it can get a bit trying, and at times plain bewildering.

Nevertheless the - mostly very young - audience was enraptured. There is something innately charismatic about these two, and while their improvisation is occasionally lacking, no one particularly cares. Here, in this badly-lit backroom of a rather questionable Italian restaurant, a unique brand of magic is being spun. Easy, uproarious laughter echoes off the grimy walls, and everyone emerges rosy cheeked, shiny-eyed and altogether very pleased that they battled through the wind and rain to get to Dario’s.


Rachel Mfon

at 10:17 on 13th Aug 2014



Outnumbered but not out of their depths, the duo cast of The Peablossom Cabaret performed magically at the enchanting, Dario's Italian restaurant . Dylan Townley and Sylvia Bishop showed that they had many tricks hidden up their sleeves, socks, hats, and shoes... With ease they found lyrics hidden all over the room and among the spellbound audience themselves. As we gave them their stimulus, they gave us a ton of laughs.

Enchanted by their comic skill, the audience kept quiet in anticipation of each joke- often led by the charming host, Dylan Townley whose foolish and witty persona reminded us of a medieval jester. The audience did not stay silent for long, speaking up when prompted by Dylan. While audience interaction in cabaret might be seen as accosting, Dylan and Sylvia engaged with the audience in a easy and friendly manner, putting us at ease despite their garish costume and makeup.

While the skill and execution of the performance kept us enthralled for a while, the show seemed to slow down and reached a gradual halt. Like a toy we'd eventually outgrown, the magic just couldn't last forever, or even forty-five minutes. The topic of the improvised songs were provided by us but they were based on questions we were asked by the duo. In an attempt to lighten the pressure of our response, we were asked things that warranted the most basic answers. The simplicity of the topics and static progression of the story-line made something as unpredictable as improvisational theatre seem repetitive and lackluster.

Despite an eventual loss of interest, there was a feeling of audience involvement present throughout the performance. Dylan and Sylvia welcomed us as part of their act as though we were also responsible for the success of the show,. Towards the very end, we were once again captured under the performers' spell. Encouraging us to engage with one another, the pair orchestrated moments of sentiment among the audience. We were to discuss our fond memories, which often meant revealing a truth about loved ones and friends to the very person sitting next to us. Dylan and Sylvia, through the power of song, made old memories new and fresh.


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