19 Sep



Last night I returned to the pretty little Garden Theatre in Vauxhall, where last month I saw the enormously successful “Fanny and Stella” At the time socially distancing meant there were only 20 audience seats for each performance. Now the stage is in the round situation and audience area has been enlarged and there is room for forty.

The new show is Pippin – full of Stephen Schwartz’s joyous tunes and with incredibly wonderful choreography by Nick Winston – who also staged “Fanny and Stella”The six-person cast members are arrayed in colourful hippie style tie-dyed costumes designed by David Shields. The whole show has been given a circus feel by Bob Fosse in a previous Broadway production and it adds a wonderful almost childlike appeal to the story as well gives even more opportunity for Winston’s amazing choreography.

Pippin, charmingly played by Ryan Anderson is a young man who needs to find out where his life is going. He is a Prince with a powerful father, Charlemagne. Dan Krikler gives a very impressive performance as Charles the Great. He is a terrific oppressive character, forever beheading and hanging protesters, fighting wars against the Visigoths and behaving very much like any other Medieval dictator. Pippin watches his father, thinking ‘There must be something more in his life than this’. He wants to be extraordinary. He does achieve some of his goals but is never really satisfied until he does a Candide type retreat with a rich widow, (Tanisha-Mae Brown) helped by a pet duck (played by a yellow feather) and his stepson to whom he teaches the recorder.All highly satisfactory.

The music is some of the best from Stephen Schwartz and here there is even one opportunity to join in with Joanne Clifton who plays outrageous comedy as the mother to him and his simple brother Lewis (Hary Francis) and also his sex-mad grandmother Bertha.

The actors will joyfully take o other roles whenever necessary. With only six in the cast, this versatility is essential. They all dance and sing up a storm – an incredible casting job by Anne Vosser.

The virtual star of this production is The Leading Player, who opens the show and carries Pippin through his trials and tribulations. The part is quite brilliantly played by Tsemaye BobEgbe.

Musical Director Michael Bradley is in charge of the piano and the music fits the actor-singers perfectly, but it is the dancing that is the main part of this show. Nick Winston has arrived at a compromise between circus-acrobatic and hippie style matching the seventies design of the costumes.

Steven Dexter directs and much of the effects are is by overhead lights that change colour according to the mood of each scene.The script is cleverly adapted to include a few topical jokes about the measure of leadership and class. (When a country is in difficulties it is the arts that are first to go)It is a sad fact though that some of the gags are lost because, with a prevalence of masks, the laughs from the audience are difficult to hear. it is a shame but unavoidable in the current situation.

Pictorially it is exquisite and exciting (unfortunately it was often lost on me because of a huge man sitting on a bench directly in front of me. You can’t win them all!).Nevertheless, it is a joyful and satisfactory way to spend a theatrical evening. Everybody, actors, creatives, ushers and audience is having a good time.

Production by Peter Bull for Lambco Productions.

Pippin is at the Garden Theatre in Vauxhall until 11th October.The Garden THeatre at the Eagle until October 11th349 Kennington LaneSE11 5QY

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