Chalemie - The Shows

"Old-fashioned" they may be, centuries old in fact, but the dances, songs and comic routines of the 18th century have lost none of their power to enthral an audience. Small travelling theatre companies, performing in theatres and fairgrounds, had to cater for people from all ranks of society; the buffoonish antics of Harlequin and Columbine were mixed with elegant dances from the French stage; broadside ballads and street music with songs from the opera house.

Working from original sources (dance choreographies as well as songs and music) Chalemie's aim is to create an historically accurate, yet entertaining account of the great variety of public entertainments of the early eighteenth century. Theatre songs, broadside ballads and street music, stage and ballroom dances, commedia and mime, all combine to create exuberant and colourful shows, fully costumed and with fine period detail.

The Hotchpotch, or "By reason of the Entertainments,
the Play will be shorten'd".

[photo from show]

Their first production, The Awful Fate of Blowzabella, made its debut at the Purcell Room on the South Bank in June 1996. Its theme is the incidental entertainments that accompanied (and sometimes threatened to submerge) the performance of most plays in the London theatres of the early eighteenth century.

The Hotchpotch built on this to create a full blooded pantomime, using the existing descriptions, music, designs and ideas that led to the emergence of this supremely popular form of entertainment around the 1720s. Chalemie toured this work for the Early Music Network during the 1997/98 season and has since performed it at many festivals in the UK and abroad.

A reconstruction of a night at the theatre at a time when the singers, dancers and musicians providing the incidental entertainments were more popular than the play itself.

Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean:
an eighteenth century pantomime

[photo from show]

The tale of Jack and the Enchanted Bean is a family show in the tradition now established by Chalemie of delving into the more obscure byways of English eighteenth century musical sources. In this colourful and entertaining show, Chalemie evokes the spirit of early pantomime. Based on an eighteenth century text, they re-tell the familiar story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with some unusual twists to the tale. Colourful costumes, authentic instruments and songs and dances of the period combine to create a wonderful evocation of the origins of English pantomime. No soap stars or celebrities, no modern pop tunes, no electronic sound effects or amplified music intrude, as six multitalented individuals play, sing, dance, act and mime their way through this enchanting tale on the perennial themes of good and evil, life and death, love and betrayal; accompanied by plenty of the usual panto banter of “Oh no it’s not” and “she’s behind you”, along with rousing choruses and a splendid dancing dragon.

Based on an early 18th century text, Chalemie creates a novel and entertaining version of the familiar tale. Colourful costumes, authentic instruments, and songs and dances of the period combine to create a wonderful evocation of the origins of pantomime.

Harlequin Dr Faustus, or
the Adventures of a Sorcerer's Apprentice at Southwark Fair

[photo from show]

Chalemie present their reworking of an early 18th century pantomime based on the story of Dr Faustus. This was a popular tale at the time and the subject of many different stage productions. Though based on the the famous version by Christopher Marlowe, most turned the tragedy into farce by transferring the pricipal characters into figures from the Commedia dell'Arte, such a Harlequin, the Doctor and Columbine.

Chalemie's version is firmly routed in this comic tradition. Based on several early 18th century versions of the story, this production evokes the hurly-burly of fairground life and entertainment in Hogarth's London.

Harlequin Pygmalion: an eighteenth century musical entertainment

[photo from show]

In a riotous feast of colour, sound and action, Chalemie presents a rumbustious evocation of the world of a travelling theatre company in the early eighteenth century. Mythology, medicine, music and mime collide with high art in this fully staged and costumed production.

In this hilarious deconstruction of the classical story, Harlequin - dancer, artist, sculptor and quack surgeon - unravels the secret life of ancient hero Pygmalion.

[engraving of the Roman de Fauvel]

Le Roman de Fauvel

(in collaboration with early music ensemble Sirinu)

The story of the Ass who corrupts society from top to bottom, told through the music and poetry of a sumptuously illustrated 14th century manuscript. Monophonic songs and motets sung and played with their unusual panache by Sirinu.