Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'Pippin' - London revival

If anyone has read Voltaire's Candide, the story of Pippin is a little similar: a story of a young man's travels. This new London production has taken the 1970s musical into the 21st century by having Pippin complete levels in a video game.

Pippin at The Menier Chocolate Factory
Performance: 4th February at 15:30
Seat: G4, quite good view. Because the stage was the same width as the auditorium, I don't think the very front row seats would have been particularly good. 
Cast included: Matt Rawle (Leading Player), Harry Hepple (Pippin), Ian Kelsey (Charles), Frances Ruffelle (Fastrada), David Page (Lewis), Carly Bawden (Catherine), Stuart Neal (Theo), Louise Gold (Berthe)

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I had been putting off seeing this one for a while mainly due to people saying it was a bit weird and not that great but I decided to take up a cheap ticket as I was still keen on seeing another show with music by Stephen Schwartz. 

Very effective lighting design not to mention the set. The space they had had been used effectively. The most amazing thing was that the 'walls' of the stage were composed of strips of fabric forming an initially solid-looking composition but they allowed actors to literally enter the stage from anywhere as they could pull the fabric apart and slip through. I feel that I should also mention the extending of the set into the passage through which the auditorium was entered. To begin with I thought I had ended up in the wrong place (you never know with these small off-West End venues especially since the Menier Chocolate Factory also does arts exhibitions and such) when I walked through something that resembled a bedroom with a guy playing video games. I did realise he was an actor because one of the people trailing into the auditorium tried to ask him something and he just ignored her but the purpose of him being there only dawned to me afterwards. 

Another thing that impressed me was a sword-fighting scene between Pippin and a shadow projected onto the back wall. First I thought it was a trick of light and that there was a person fighting him because all of the sound effects of metal clashing together were so perfectly timed with Pippin and the shadow's swords. 
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I only found out Frances Ruffelle was in this when I started flicking through the programme. She most famously played Eponine in the original London and Broadway casts of Les Misérables. I had never seen her perform before so I was quite excited. She has a very unique voice and a great stage presence and she suited the part of Fastrada very well.
Another special mention goes to Louise Gold and her rendition of No Time at All. I can't recall when I have last heard the applause and the cheers go on for as long as that after a single song in a musical. However, that might have also been partly due to the fact that it was the third last of Louise's performances in the part (I don't know who is taking over for the rest of the run). 
The choreography was particularly interesting for me to watch as I have recently been familiarising myself with Bob Fosse's work and he was the one who choreographed the original Broadway production of Pippin. I noted happily that this new production had kept a lot of Fosse routines. 

In this musical the actors addressed the audience directly on occasion and, even though I did not exactly know what this musical was about, I had heard of the Leading Player extending his hand to someone in the audience and saying "Come" towards the end of the musical. The lady who was chosen this time actually did get up and follow the Leading Player. Wonder where she was taken. Surely they would not have denied her the end of the show? The ending, by the way, is slightly different to the ending of the original production and I think it works brilliantly with all the futuristic alterations that have been made to the musical. 

Pippin is running at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 25th February.

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