Tag Archives: Steven Dexter

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Fanny and Stella

★★★★

The Garden Theatre

Fanny and Stella

Fanny and Stella

The Garden Theatre

Reviewed – 11th August 2020

★★★★

 

“the show is a light and frothy bit of fun”

 

Sitting in The Garden Theatre, the newly-named performance space at The Eagle in Vauxhall, on a hot summer’s night, sipping an icy vodka and tonic and watching six actors strut their stuff, accompanied by a pianist, is as close to heaven as this reviewer has been for six long months. It was, quite literally, an oasis, in the desperate COVID-created cultural landscape in which we currently find ourselves. And let’s shout it from the rooftops: WE NEED THEATRE! WE NEED LIVE PERFORMANCE! There is a frisson to seeing real people – people like us – telling us a story. We feel it in a different way. So, congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this first taster back to us. It was managed beautifully; a track and trace system and social distancing were in place, but handled with ladlefuls of welcome and humanity by the Eagle staff, and the whole event fizzed with a sense of delight and solidarity.

The show itself is a musical, based on the true story of two young men in Victorian London – Frederick William Park and Ernest Boulton – who were put on trial for dressing as women and conspiring to commit sodomy. Frederick and Ernest – the eponymous Fanny and Stella – were well-known figures, having public dalliances with a bevy of society gentlemen, as well as attending drag balls, which were a feature of gay London life of the period. Glenn Chandler’s book and lyrics emphasise the freedom the young men feel within this world and their right to live as they choose – which is a reminder of the battle against misogyny that femme-presenting gay men and trans women still battle with today. The reminder is there, but the piece is far from a polemic. Steven Dexter (director) and Nick Winston (musical staging) have done a terrific job of bringing some real MT pzazz to this tiny space; the choreography is simple but tight throughout, and the performers make it sing, with Jed Berry (Stella) in particular, leading from the front and dancing with real skill, style and showmanship.

There are a few stand-out numbers, as you would expect, and the opener – Sodomy on the Strand – starts the show with a bang. Alex Lodge (Louis Charles Hurt) does some lovely work in one of the more tender romantic songs, but (’twas ever thus) the show really belongs to the barn stormers, and Kane Verrall (Fanny) gives them exactly the level of gutsy ribald chutzpah they need. He gives a terrific comedy performance throughout, and helps get things back on track on the few occasions when the script loses a bit of energy and pace. There are a couple of jarring moments tonally (the horribly invasive medical scene just didn’t sit right as light comedy) but, as a whole, the show is a light and frothy bit of fun, providing a very welcome 90 minutes of laughter and joy in this strange hot summer of 2020.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Alex Hinson

 


Fanny and Stella

The Garden Theatre until 25th August

 

 

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