The Hunchback of Notre Dame at St Paul’s Church.
This brand new promenade adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” set in the grounds of Saint Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, captures the heart of the original story beautifully, whilst remaining entertaining, original and thoroughly immersive.
The cast set the scene with musical accompaniment and powerful storytelling, luring us into 1482 Paris, where the story takes place.
The talented group of actor musicians played incredibly well and remained in character throughout, actor and instrument becoming one through delicate movement and strong individual character physicality. The musical direction from Matt Malone was sublime, and the arrangements added that extra something to the story and overall atmosphere. My only complaint would be that I was unfortunate to be sat right next to the accordionist at one point, and quite frequently the speakers blaring out background music and sound effects, which meant that I couldn’t hear the actors and missed a great chunk of the storyline. Generally speaking, diction and vocal projection was clear throughout, especially as they were competing with the rather loud street performers of Covent Garden! I have to say though, this somewhat added to the ambience of the busy Parisian streets where the first section of the production was set.
As is the nature of promenade theatre, we were taken from location to location within the courtyard throughout the evening. There is a risk here of the energy dipping in between each section, but I thought the actors did a good job at trying to keep the audience involved in these short intermissions. Unfortunately for them, the audience were incredibly slow at moving from one area to the next, which did mean the energy dropped in between and the actors had a harder job bringing it back to the scene. I thought they did a great job though, and quickly got the audience engaged once more, and heavily involved in the storytelling. A special mention has to be given to audience member “Charlie” who was delightful as the goat. (If you see it, you’ll know.)
The actors all did a great job in each of their roles, embodying them both physically and emotionally. Robert Moore was excellent in the role of Quasimodo. He was sensitive in the quieter moments and had a nervousness and naivety about him which made the audience root for him until the end. His physicality really shone through, fully embodying the Hunchback in his body, and made him really believable.
One of my favourite scenes in the entire production was the scene between Quasimodo and Esmeralda, who had a beautifully touching bond – it was gorgeous to watch and really tugged at the heart strings.
Izzy Jones played the enchanting Esmeralda. Her movement as the gypsy dancer was beautiful, as well as having a subtle yet captivating singing voice which stilled the audience – you could have heard a pin drop, it was delightful.
Ed Bruggemeyer was somewhat terrifying as the villainous, corrupt Priest, Frollo, making children in the audience hide their faces away in fear. He showed great ability in his contrasting Gypsy character – a much more jovial persona.
A real mention though, has to go to Katie Tranter, who’s comedic timing was perfect and stole the show. She played the roles of Pierre, a nervous and utterly disastrous poet, the spoiled princess Fleur-De-Lys, and even stood out in the small role of court room judge. She was a delight to watch and had the entire audience in stitches throughout.
The costumes were simple yet effective, and despite a few glitches with dress reveals and sword belts which the actors covered well, they were notable without being distracting. I feel that this piece really showcases great acting and storytelling, and elaborate costuming would have been too overbearing.
The final climax of the production took the audience into the main cathedral (the moment we had all been waiting for!) and added a sinister ambience to a heart-wrenching, heart-warming, epic battle scene, complete with excellently executed sword fighting.
Overall, this production of Hunchback of Notre Dame was joyous and well thought out, showcasing some great acting talent and musical ability, whilst remaining true to the original tale and capturing the hearts of the audience, both young and old.
Review by Joanne Frazer
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is running at St Paul’s Church until 1st September. To find out more about the show visit their website.