Pippin at The Southwark Playhouse

Pippin at The Southwark Playhouse

Pippin is the latest show by Aria Entertainment to hit London. This show has transferred from Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester after rave reviews so I was keen to see what the fuss was about.

PippinPippin follows a group of Players. These players, lead by the Leading Player, tell of Pippin, the son of emperor Charlemangne who embarks on a journey to live an extraordinary life. Along the way he tries pursuits like war, sex and eventually true love before being faced with the ultimate decision.

The show is one which often confuses as it spirals into the abstract, with the actors stepping out of character to comment on the show and Pippin’s decisions. Due to this the audience is unclear what is real and what is imagined and there is a surprisingly dark ending. Jonathan O’Boyles version really draws on the darkness of the musical and at every possible moment the audience is faced with a sinister interpretation of the piece. However it is this element that appeals to me. O’Boyles version of Pippin steers away from the often traditional ‘happy every after’ musical theatre ending and leaves the audience  to their own interpretation.

This element of darkness is enhanced by the casting of Jonathan Carlton as Pippin who is fresh faced and youthful with a pure voice which hits the soaring notes, in contrast to the villainous vixen Genevieve Nicole as the Leading Player who commands the stage with ferociousness. When Nicole urges Carlton on it is apparent who holds the power between them, making the ending even more shocking.

PippinThe cast are an utter delight to watch at all moments. Mairi Barcley plays both the overtly sexual step-mother Fastrada as well as hilarious grandmother Berthe and succeeds in making these smaller parts memorable, in particular the feel good sing along ‘No Time At All’. Song sheets are handed out for this number and Berthe bellows at the audience when it her turn for a solo. Bradley Judge is a dashing Lewis, posturing all over the stage and Tessa Kadler is an entrancing Catherine, ordinary yet perfect in her being so.

The music is by Schwartz in his pre-Wicked period. There are some beautiful songs within the show including ‘Corner of Sky’ sung with passion by Carlton and ‘Magic To Do’ lead by Nicole. The cast produce a huge sound together and ensure that the harmony lines in numbers such as ‘Morning Glow’ combine together richly. The choreography by William Whelton (and some of Bob Fosse’s original moves) meant that clever and slick dance routines enhanced every moment even in the less dance heavy numbers.

PippinThe show is set with audience on 3 sides and it is cleverly directed so you never feel as there is performing going on with their back to you. It is done up like a big top, with the cast in pierrot and pierrette costumes, all adding to the feeling that Pippin is all part of a big game, what that game is….. I’ll let you decide.

This is a show that focuses on the dark and the imagination and whilst it’s not always clear what is happening, isn’t that reflective upon life and Pippin’s journey itself?

To find out more about Pippin and to get tickets visit Southwark Playhouses website. 

If you liked this review you might also like the review of Eugenius and Dear Brutus.



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