The Garden Theatre
Reviewed – 17th September 2020
“fast-paced and engaging”
These last seven months have taken a toll on the best of us, least of all this reviewer, who was beyond excited to have an energetic performance of the 1972 musical Pippin, directed by Steven Dexter, at The Garden Theatre in Vauxhall mark her return to attending live theatre. Upon taking my seat, the excitement in the air was palpable. Certainly, many in the audience will have felt the theatrical lacuna caused by lockdown restrictions. So, to begin, a thank you to all who worked towards making this show possible whilst abiding by the government’s safety guidelines.
Secondly, the show itself. Pippin follows the young prince Pippin (Ryan Anderson), son of the great leader Charlemagne (Dan Krikler), on his search for a significant and fulfilling life. Along the way, Pippin must contend with his self-obsessed stepbrother Lewis (Harry Francis) and his power-hungry stepmother Fastrada (Joanne Clifton) who have their eyes on the throne. Pippin must also navigate a mysterious fourth wall-breaking chorus led by the aptly named Leading Player (Tsemaye Bob-Egbe) whose motives are questionable to say the least. When Pippin meets the widow farm-owner Catherine (Tanisha-Mae Brown) and finds purpose in a simpler life, Pippin must confront what really makes him happy and whether his pursuit of ‘the extraordinary’ is really so wonderful at all.
The cast have great chemistry and work effortlessly together. Anderson’s range is phenomenal. He is as convincing when playing a son desperate to impress his nonchalant father as he is as an anguished young man torn between two drastically different life paths in his final scene. Clifton is also particularly strong in her role as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe, performing a lively and hilarious rendition of the song ‘No Time At All’ in which the audience were encouraged to sing along.
Psychedelic wall hangings and plants surround the courtyard that acts as the stage (David Shields). The stage itself is for the large part empty, excluding a bench and a set of boxes that are periodically set down to act as seating or dance apparatus. Incense burns throughout the performance and the cast are decked out in hippy garb, tying the ‘peace and love’ theme together nicely. Props are cleverly hidden amongst the foliage, the best of which is a tambourine which has a dual purpose of crown and instrument.
The performance space is surrounded by a plethora of different lighting. Fairy lights – both gold and blue – intermingle amongst the greenery and trellises while bulbed lights and a disco ball hang above centre stage. The lights are well-timed to flash and change colours to reflect the mood on stage.
The songs (Michael Bradley) are well performed and accompanied by dynamic choreography (Nick Winston). Krikler gives a standout performance of ‘War is a Science’ and the dancing is particularly strong during ‘On the Right Track’ performed by Anderson and Bob-Egbe. Brown provides good backing vocals before stepping into her own in the role of Catherine and the song ‘Kind of Woman’.
Pippin is a fast-paced and engaging musical, especially in its latter half, and the cast and crew should be proud of their spirited performance. Music and laughter abound, Pippin finds new meaning in these strange times, when we all have been forced to reflect on the simple pleasures of life and consider what truly makes us happy.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Photography by Bonnie Britain Photography
The Garden Theatre until 11th October
Last ten shows reviewed by Flora: