Hummingbird, a darkly beautiful story of love and murder, is coming to The Warren this May as part of Brighton Fringe 2017 after winning international critical acclaim.
Edith Cole worked a dead-end job in a funeral parlour. Ralph Conti worked wealthy widows for a quick buck. Neither expected to fall in love. But once they did, they kept on falling.
Fresh from an international tour, award-winning Tooth+Nail make their Brighton Fringe debut with the critically-acclaimed Hummingbird, a sultry tale of love and murder. Inspired by the true story of the ‘Lonely Hearts Killers’, who gripped early 1950s America, Hummingbird is a tale of latter-day Macbeths dancing each other ever closer to the electric chair. This physical theatre production from the young, Lecoq-trained company is acrobatic, seductive and spiked with black humour.
Like latter-day Macbeths, Ralph Conti and Edith Cole lead each other ever further into darkness along a path that ultimately leads to the electric chair. “It’s easy to see her as the victim of a powerful man, but I don’t think that’s accurate,” says Harriet Feeny, who plays Edith. “They are in love, each giving the other permission to go further.” The show is inspired by the infamous Lonely Hearts Killers who entrapped their victims through newspaper small ads in the USA in the early 1950s. From this starting point, Tooth+Nail have crafted a highly physical production with a distinctive visual style. It’s a tapestry of fragments and clues, rather than a straightforward three-act drama.
One of the big questions in the case of the real killers, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, was which one of them used violence first and why? “They are misfits and the one thing they have is each other,” says Francois Lecomte, who takes the role of Ralph. “It’s all about the dynamic between them. Had they never met it seems unlikely that either of them would have ended up as killers.”
Hummingbird uses a lush soundscape of songs, jingles, adverts and other Americana to conjure up the post-war era. This also casts light on the motivation of a couple that believes owning the right car will buy them entry into a society that has rejected them. “We really wanted to draw out the similarities between their time and ours, and address some of the social issues that lead them down this path of deceit and violence,” says third company member, Adam Gordon.
Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck were sent to the electric chair on 8 March 1951. Fernandez’s final words were: “I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?” and Beck was reported to have said: “My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean.”
Adam, Harriet and Francois teamed up while training at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where they formed the company in 2014. Since then, they’ve twice been finalists in the ‘Best Dance/Physical Theatre’ category at Fringe World 2017 with both Hummingbird and Parlour Games, and won the Inspiration Award at Prague Fringe 2016 with Parlour Games.
Hummingbird comes to The Warren: Main House on Thurs 18 & Sat 20 – Sun 21 May 20