More than a little mad, Stephen Schwartz’s musical, ostensibly about the son of Emperor Charlemagne, has a big revival in this small-scale venue.
This new version of the phenomenal hit has a cast of six who create a band-of-players feel that, along with the traverse staging, suits the setting. And director Steven Dexter hits the mark creating hippy vibes: dating from 1972, the show is very much of its time.
Ryan Anderson does a lovely job with the score’s main theme and its clever love song, where he is joined by Tanisha-Mae Brown making a strong professional debut. Anderson’s Pippin also manages some character development (no small achievement in this role) from awkward to angry – well done.
Anderson may take the lead, but the production’s sextet works especially well together. They seem like they’re having fun! The cast’s skills show Nick Winston’s choreography superbly, impressive work for such an intimate space.
Pippin has great tunes and smart enough lyrics. The cast do well with the humour (which in truth is one note) aided by jokes about the lo-fi staging and theatre under current conditions. Joanne Clifton deserves special mention for camping it up as Pippin’s gran and his stepmother.
While Dexter has done well, it’s still hard to really get involved with this “anecdotal review”. Pippin’s search for fulfilment is exposed with deep cynicism – fair enough – but the self-conscious storytelling isn’t as clever as it would like and ends up feeling frosty.
Thankfully, Anderson manages to inject some genuine emotion. And the show’s overbearing concepts, with the sinister idea that Pippin is being manipulated, are in the capable hands of Tsemaye Bob-Egbe who performs as the Lead Player; her excellent voice and commanding presence brings the whole show together.
Until 11 October 2020
Photos by Bonnie Britain