The six strong cast, the psychedelic costumes – hippy with added tat you might say – the adroit direction and the athletic choreography all leaps, bounds and thrusting groins carry the show to success. The result is a scintillating rave, a rather marvelous party something we most certainly need at the moment. Is there something magic about the number six?
To be honest – and I am not being a party pooper – Pippin is not a show I ever much cared for. I saw it when it opened in London in 1973 and most recently at the Menier and Southwark. But as the song says – Time changes everything. Although that is not a Schwartz song. A hit on Broadway in 1972 – the cod medieval philosophy appealed to American audiences – it arrived in London the following year and in spite of a stellar cast – Elisabeth Welch, Diane Langton, Patricia Hodge and the pop star Paul Jones – lasted only 85 performances.
It has been revived since with mixed results as directors threw pretty well everything in the book at it to make it work. As always it is the book. It is a Candide story, a Peer Gynt story as Pippin, the idealistic son of Charlemagne, seeks the meaning of life, kills his father, fails as a do gooder emperor, takes to the road, meets a widow and – well by that time one has no idea what he is up to but it does not matter in this production at least. The score is good, the lyrics are fun, ad the best thing to do is park your brain at the door and just enjoy the goings on which are in this instance splendidly done.
Given the current state of the theatre, it deserves a warm welcome for being there at all in spite of saying not very much and that not really worth saying in the first place. The behemoths elsewhere south of the river should hold their heads in shame as this travelling troupe of players tell us Pippin’s story. If playhouses are shut then take to the streets – or the gardens. Actors were once vagabond strolling players and here we have them pretending to be just that.
Pippin is performed traverse fashion, always problematical, but the cast and director manage the tricky task of playing to both sides at once very well. This version is very much an ensemble affair so I am not going to single any one of them out as they all rise to their big moments with assurance a a couple of them do stand out. The direction is slick, the choreography athletic, lots of jumping and thrusting groin – Bob Fosse directed the original so to some extent Pippin is a dance show -and musical director Michael Bradley keeps the melodies flowing albeit a little over amplified at times – but while under canvas this is an open air show in a garden so it is excusable.
So go have a marvelous party – I had.
Ryan Anderson,Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Joanne Clifton, Harry Francis, Dan Kirkler.
Director: Steven Dexter.
Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Musical Director: Michael Bradley.
Designer: David Shields.
Lighting Designer: Richard Lambert.
Photograph – Bonnie Britain Photography.