Tag Archives: Iris Theatre

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

★★★★

St Paul’s Church Covent Garden

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

St Paul’s Church Covent Garden

Reviewed – 7th August 2019

★★★★

 

“carries the audience along on a tide of smiles, while keeping enough of the darkness of the original story to balance the madcap hilarity”

 

This production fizzes with life as the cast of six talented actor musicians lead the audience through the streets of Paris, transforming the garden and interior of St Paul’s Church into Notre Dame Cathedral, dangerous slums, the site of gallows, pillories and court rooms, as they weave the tale of Quasimodo and Esmeralda. Be prepared to move from place to place, becoming the Parisian crowd and taking sides as the story unfolds. Don’t worry though, there are plentiful seats at each destination. There is a lot of audience participation, and engagement with the actors, all done with such jovial good humour that even the most timid audience member wouldn’t shy away.

It can’t be easy to write a show based on a book that has already had so many incarnations on film and stage, but Benjamin Polya has written a version of this well known story that is vibrant and alive. He has given the actors well rounded characters to play with, and they rise to the occasion with gusto. When we first meet the cast they introduce themselves as a troupe of players who will be putting on a show. They make their appearance in the bar area of the garden, and shepherd the audience into the first scene, already primed to enjoy the evening, grinning from the intro.

It’s a real ensemble piece, and each actor plays multiple roles. Katie Tranter has a genius for comedy, and an ability to really get the audience on her side. Her rather inept and earnest Pierre is one of the standout performances of the evening; hilarious, sweet and endearing. Ed Bruggemeyer is a powerful Frollo, bringing menace and darkness into the mix with his obsession for Izzy Jones’ charming and mercurial Esmeralda. Darrie Gardner is by turns a rousing ringmaster and a mother still grieving the loss of her baby, twenty years ago, bringing her anguish to balance the fun. Max Alexander-Taylor goes from king to lover to magistrate at the drop of a hat, and Robert Rhodes is an excellent Quasimodo, vulnerable, brave and, at times, heartbreaking. But it is the way that all the actors work and play together that make this such a good show.

Michael Malone’s songs and music mesh with the set and costume design, by Isabella Van Braeckel and Cieranne Kennedy-Bell to create an enticing and fascinating world. The fight scenes, choreographed by fight director Esme Cooper, are exciting, and director Bertie Watkins pulls everything together beautifully, creating a play that carries the audience along on a tide of smiles, while keeping enough of the darkness of the original story to balance the madcap hilarity.

This version of Hunchback is a real treat, full of laughter and drama. A magical summer evening in a garden, a high energy show full of humour and compassion. And there’s even a magical goat.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography courtesy Iris Theatre

 


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

St Paul’s Church Covent Garden until 1st September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Tempest | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Three Musketeers | ★★★ | August 2018
Anna Karenina | ★★★ | November 2018
Parenthood | ★★★ | May 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Parenthood
★★★

St Paul’s Church Covent Garden

Parenthood

Parenthood

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

Reviewed – 3rd May 2019

★★★

 

“Overall the production has potential and has a strong foundation with great music, lyrics and plot”

 

Parenthood is a new musical that takes us on a relatable journey, giving us a snapshot style exploration of mainly the negative parts of being a parent through comedic songs. A cast of nine clearly talented actors/singers switch roles and give us an authentic and frankly funny portrayal of their characters. We see parents finding out they’re pregnant and the reactions of doubt to gloating that inevitably follow through songs such as ‘We’ll be fine’ and ‘Strong swimmers’.

Moving swiftly onto ‘Christmas With the Kids’ and ‘Put on a Show’ which is where the performance peaks for me, it shows us the all too real primary school Nativity, with the kid that tries too hard, the shy kid and the one who can’t really remember their lines but likes being on stage. The lyrics really helped in portraying this nostalgic look back at growing up, and this felt to me one of the best parts of the production. You can really feel that the words and book have been through a lot of work, they make the songs funny, relevant and catchy. I did find myself humming ‘What’s the Doodle on the Fridge?’ as I travelled home.

Emily and Pete Moody, the creators of the music and lyrics have done a great job at capturing the nuances of parenthood and packaging them in memorable, toe tapping songs. Although because of the high quality of these it means that it is easy to see where the performance is lacking.

The thing that really spoils the performance for me is the lighting design (Maya Kally), it is important to keep in mind the limitations of the space they were performing in but even with this factor in mind it felt clunky and in some places simply wrong. Throughout the performance we would be met with blackouts only for the cast to finish the scene without light and during songs we would have to battle the lights fading in and out to the point where I wondered if there was a fault in the system.

It seems that the production has tried to be too ambitious with their lighting design in such a restricted space, it would have looked far better to tone down lighting changes and work with the resources you have. This can also be said for the choreography, where it feels messy and overcomplex, the best parts are where the cast perform simple moves to accompany the narrative and music. I think it’s important to remember that sometimes less really is more.

Overall the production has potential and has a strong foundation with great music, lyrics and plot. In general though, the production values didn’t reach the same height, perhaps hindered by the church venue; this is a shame as the audience clearly loved the concept of the production.

 

Reviewed by Laurie Wilson

Photography courtesy Fluffy Top Productions

 


Parenthood

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Tempest | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Three Musketeers | ★★★ | August 2018
Anna Karenina | ★★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com