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Pippin

Pippin

★★★★

The Garden Theatre

Pippin

Pippin

 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

 


Pippin

 The Garden Theatre until 11th October

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Flora:
Julius Caesar | ★★½ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | January 2020
Scrounger | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | January 2020
Something Awful | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Tribes | ★★★★ | Putney Arts Theatre | January 2020
Important Art | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Jekyll & Hyde | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Minority Report | ★★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | February 2020
Julius Caesar | ★★★★ | The Space | March 2020
The Haus Of Kunst | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020

 

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Romance Romance

Romance Romance
★★★★

Above the Stag

Romance Romance

Romance Romance

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 14th March 2019

★★★★

 

“this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended”

 

In the heart of Vauxhall, Above the Stag Theatre has established itself as the only professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK with Artistic Director Peter Bull introducing some exciting productions. Romance Romance is a revival of the 1980’s Broadway original, with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann. Marketed as a reimagining told through the exploration of gay attraction and relationships, this two-act musical offers two very different stories both connected by the theme of love. Act One, The Little Comedy, is set in 19th Century Vienna and provides a light-hearted, farcical story of two people who upon adopting new personas fall in love. Act Two jumps forward to a contemporary setting in The Hamptons for Summer Share, which explores the complexities of love through the possibility of an affair.

First and foremost for a small production this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended. The driving force behind this was the cast of just four performers (Ryan Anderson, Jordan Lee Davies, Alex Lodge, and Blair Robertson) who each threw themselves into this production heart and soul. Powerful performances from all but notably Ryan Anderson who brought the house down with his solo number ‘How did I end up Here?’ Some fantastic casting as the dynamic between the four was electric, and by the end of Act Two, the idea of this being a reimagining as a means to explore gay attraction is so far out of the picture, it was as if it was meant to have been written this way. Act Two really stood out because of its exploration of love, emotion and the complexities of relationships offering something we can all connect to regardless of your sexual orientation.

The direction (Steven Dexter with Summer Strallen as associate director) ensured the absolute most was made of all available space which doubled the size of the production as it burst out from every part of the stage. David Shields’ smart design allowed for the set to be transformed in front of our eyes, transporting us from Vienna to The Hamptons in a blink of an eye. Live music filled the room from upstage where the band sat playing for all to see, emphasising just how much can be achieved in a studio space. The lighting design (Jack Weir) added another layer which allowed for us to be transformed from the character’s private thoughts to new locations. The production made the most of all it had and then some.

Overall this musical was very sharp and full of life. My only wish is that it could be realised on a bigger scale as it has so much to offer. Act One offers you fun, songs, silliness and dance with Act Two bringing the heart and soul; a musical of two very different halves but with something for everything!

 

Reviewed by Lucy Bennett

Photography by PBG Studios

 


Romance Romance

Above the Stag until 6th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
[Title Of Show] | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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