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La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre


La Cage Aux Folles

“Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you”


We live in an age where the word ‘gender’ can spark hot debate and a furious character count on people’s twitter (sorry – ‘x’) feed. Indeed, gender discourse has changed greatly since “La Cage Aux Folles” opened on Broadway four decades ago, at the time breaking many barriers by becoming the first Broadway musical centred on a same sex relationship. So much so that Tim Sheader’s current staging lays itself open to accusations of being dated. And yet, the production rebuffs all of that and rises way above it. There is no question of discussion, or of dissecting its relevance and resonance today. It is simply a celebration. One that is bursting with pure joy and spectacle – full of hope and other sentiments that belong to the human heart irrespective of the rhythm it beats to.

From the overture to the finale, we are drawn into the world of these larger-than-life characters. We are told from the off, by the deliciously diverse and garish troupe of ‘Cagelles’, that “what we are is an illusion”. Illusion or not, they are magical. As is every other aspect of this authentic, feel-good show that, deep down, honours old fashioned and revered values of loyalty, family, solidarity and acceptance. It is only in retrospect that this analysis becomes clear – at the time we are just swept along by the warm tide of music and dance.

Set in 1970s St Tropez, it is more ‘Prom, Prom, Prom!’ than French Riviera. Colin Richmond’s eye-catching set captures a fading grandeur that stands proud against the evening backdrop but when you get up close you see the peeling walls and mildew, reflecting the by-gone era and authenticity that refuses to be glossed over. Pan out again and Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you. The ensemble is ever present, watching from the wings; smoking, laughing, winking or yawning. But when they emerge and take centre stage their dance moves are fearless, faultless and simply stunning.


“The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act”


Jerry Herman’s score is at once recognisable and stylishly fresh. The intellect isn’t overburdened, but the passion and romance are loud and clear. As the first act closes, we almost feel like we have reached the grand finale as Albin (Carl Mullaney) delivers a searing, defiant and heartfelt “I Am What I Am”. Rejection has never been portrayed with such authenticity.

Albin’s partner Georges (Billy Carter) hosts the ‘Cage Aux Folles’ nightclub where Albin headlines as his alter ego ‘Zaza’. Along with George’s son Jean-Michel (Ben Culleton) from a brief dalliance with the now absent biological mother, they form the most unconventional conventional family unit imaginable; supplemented by in-house maid/butler Jacob (a show-stealing, mesmerising, gender-fluid Shakeel Kimotho). Loyalties are stretched to breaking point when Jean-Michel announces his engagement to Anne Dindon (Sophie Pourret). Her father is head of the ‘Tradition, Family and Morality Party’, whose goal is to shut down the local drag clubs, of which George’s is the flagship. Albin is persuaded to absent himself for the upcoming visit of Anne’s parents, the consequences of which inform the hilarious and farcical second act.

The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act. The chorus line moves as one, yet each member’s individuality shines through. Although the plotline is a touch on the thin side, it is fleshed out by Harvey Fierstein’s witty script and, of course, Herman’s music and lyrics. But what really brings the house down is the talent on display, the presentation, and the sheer flamboyance of the performances – all of whom deserve mention. There is no roof at the open-air theatre, but by curtain call there wouldn’t have been anyway: the standing ovation raises it way out of sight.


LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed on 11th August 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-Written | ★★ | June 2023
Once On This Island | ★★★★ | May 2023
Legally Blonde | ★★★ | May 2022
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★½ | June 2021

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

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Arabian Nights – 4 Stars


Arabian Nights

Hoxton Hall

Reviewed – 19th September 2018


“Jonny Dixon’s superb puppets and masks feed our imagination and enhance this youthful yet enlightened production”


Iris Theatre presents a new, pertinent version of the ‘Arabian Nights’, turning Hoxton Hall into a wonderland of illusion. Rich colours, masks, puppets, dance and music blend and fuse with the narration to take us on a familiar journey, but down a different path. Nessah Muthy’s heartfelt rewriting of this centuries-old treasure adapts the framework of the story to show the strength and independent minds of women. King Shahryar finds revenge for his wife’s unfaithfulness by marrying a new wife every day and killing her the following morning. When he decides to marry Dunzayad, his young servant, her older sister, Sharazad, uses her gift of storytelling to buy time and save her. In doing so, she gradually sees behind the king’s brutal façade and challenges him, questioning her own feelings as well. Muthy also adds clever twists of gender within the tales, giving them a modern relevance.

Director, Daniel Winder, masterfully interprets the script with art and inspiration. Jonny Dixon’s superb puppets and masks feed our imagination and enhance this youthful yet enlightened production. The lighting (Ben Polya) and sound (Filipe Gomes) add magical and dramatic effects and a constant stream of additional details holds our attention – Amber Scarlett’s resourceful set design, evocative music and dance (Sonum Batra and Nour Alkawaja) and colourful costumes by Maddy Ross-Masson.

The well-chosen, multi-cultural cast poignantly reflects the rich origins of the ‘Arabian Nights’. The six actors cover a multitude of roles as well as manipulating the puppets with dexterity, allowing us to enjoy the fantasy. We not only hear of Ali Baba and Sinbad; brothers and sisters, princesses, husbands and wives, sailors, kings and queens and animals all play their part in recounting adventures, myths and morals. There are varied and vivid performances from Ikky Elyas and Maya Brittoa, Hemi Yeroham’s comic flair, Pravessh Rana’s powerful presence on stage, Izzy Jones’s portrayal as the spirited sister and a special mention for Sharon Singh as Sharazad, who elegantly holds the main plot together with the many narrative diversions.

The first half of the show takes a while to flow. Once we break through the slightly ‘theme park’ feel of the repetitive, pre-show piped music, the imitation stone of the set (from the audience’s close proximity) and the initial impact of the broad acting, we can appreciate the huge amount of thought, work and talent. It is neither a children’s show nor more suitable for adults; seemingly, it has something for everyone. And, at two and a half hours long, there is plenty of time to find it.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Ali Wright


Arabian Nights

Hoxton Hall until 13th October


Previously reviewed at this venue
Oranges & Elephants | ★★★ | January 2018
Don Juan | ★★★★ | April 2018


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