Little Bulb Theatre Company are literally in residence at Battersea Arts Centre this month with their latest show, Operation Greenfield. Having been commissioned and developed by South London's BAC, the show went on to win the Herald Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 and have now returned to the place where it all began for a two week run that ends on 23rd June. The show follows the lives of four young people in a sleepy middle-England village, currently undergoing nature's cruelest of transformations- adolescence. Occupying a stage populated solely by some ladders, a cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley, and a somewhat plot-spoiling trophy, our four leads charmingly explore and successfully depict the confusion, naivety and absurdities of teenage life. The group of young church club members have their relationships and beliefs tested as they embark on a journey to win the annual Stokely Talent Competition with a song about the angel Gabriel's annunciation to the Virgin Mary.
Operation Greenfield's plot follows the evolution of the eventually-eponymous band and is punctuated by bursts of live music from the always-surprisingly accomplished performers. Lead superbly by Dominic Conway's James, a control freak reminiscent of more likable Rik Mayall in The Young Ones, the cast are affable, funny, and very talented, swapping instruments as regularly as costumes and never being anything other than impressive. The simple staging and plot do not detract from the show's overall message, and although the story has an obvious trajectory, the cast's energy coupled with and the pacing mean that its 80 minute run time flies by as quickly as a teenage summer holiday.
At times, Little Bulb are in danger of walking the thin tight-rope between quirky and kooky, and there are moments in the production that seem a tad self-indulgent, but the group are tight and disciplined enough for some of the over-stretched musical interludes to be overlooked. Operation Greenfield is a well-acted, well-designed, and particularly well-observed portrait of middle-class teenage life, lovingly and carefully portrayed by a prolific cast who will hopefully continue to entertain in the bigger things that inevitably await them.
Operation Greenfield is at The Battersea Arts Center until 23rd June. Tickets are £15 (£10 Cons)