CityLife for Manchester Evening News
on Quasimodo ****
It's not hard to see why Belt Up Theatre’s Quasimodo was a sell-out success at the Edinburgh Fringe.
One: it is fantastic; and two: it can only take about 20 people in the audience at any one performance.
That said, this is not a show for the faint hearted. Prepare to take part, be insulted and immersed in the heart-breaking, lonely and ruthless world of Quasimodo.
The drama starts before we even take our seats. A man with bandages over his eyes and a white cane shuffles us along to a small space (a darkened orchestra pit) in the bowels of the theatre.
As he announces, we are entering the Court of Miracles – a surreal world of deceit and villainy. It is a dimly lit room, not much bigger than many sitting rooms. There is the sound of dripping water, manic laughter and cruel taunts from which the audience are not exempt.
Jethro Compton’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic, Notre Dame de Paris, is dark and compelling. Joe Hufton is both vulnerable and monstrous as the deformed Quasimodo. His twisted body, bare-foot and spitting in the darkness, reflects an inescapable torment. He has us crying in sympathy for his painful condition and repulsed by the horror of his actions.
Dominic J Allen is an equally convincing Frollo, whose wealth and authority masks a sinister ugliness inside.
Serena Manteghi as Esmerelda and James Wilkes as Phoebus make up the energetic company, for whom this is the second show of the evening. But you would never guess by watching them. This skilful team has the audience transfixed to the end, never once breaking the theatrical spell – not even for applause.