Bagdad Cafe – the Old Vic, London to 21 August 2021. 4****. William Russell

Emma Rice’s production of Bagdad Cafe is, as one expects from her, a mixture of razzle, dazzle and delight. I caught up with it at a matinee and although the theatre was far from full the audience was enthralled, I was less enamoured, partly because if you cannot make out what the actor’s are saying you do get somewhat confused and miss things. As they do sing several songs and are clearly miked this is not really good enough. It is based on the 1987 film of the same name and is about how German tourist Jasmin (Patrycja Kujaska) falls out with her husband while touring in the depths of the American middle West, he goes off, she finds refuge in the Bagdad Cafe run by Brenda (Serena Marvin) and discovers a while new world and lots of new friends. The film was a hit, led to a TV spin off, and has become one people treasure. Rice does not quite capture the charm of the film and drenches things in lots of magic tricks, the trucks who pass along the highway become model vehicles worn a headpieces, the boundaries of the road become figures wear parkas, boomerangs are thrown and magically return and disappear, stars fall from the sky, Jasmin plays the violin and Brenda rants and raves about her husband. On the other hand she does create one of those experiences of theatre at its most inventive and in these days when it is struggling back to life in fits and starts this production shows lots of things we were missing. In other words – the magic of live theatre. The cast perform miracles and Kujaska and Marvin are a delight to watch – and listen to.
Phgotograph: Steve Tanner

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