The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at Southwark Playhouse.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a new musical based on the book by F Scott Fitzgerald but made famous by the Brad Pitt movie. This adaptation however is miles away from the Hollywood movie, literally, it is set is Cornwall in, as the producer puts it, ‘A world where folklore and reality intertwine so seamlessly.’
The story is one of a person, Benjamin Button, who is born an old man and gets younger as the years progress. He meets the love of his life Elowen in his fifties and after years apart they meet again and start a life together. Whilst the plot all about Benjamin Button the powerful theme that run through the show is about time and what we do with it.
The show is woven together so beautifully that it is difficult to know where to start and which element to describe first. The book by Jethro Compton, is cleverly crafted from moments of pure joy to moments of tears set against each other. The songs by Darren Clark (music) and Compton (lyrics) also serve each time to move the story on. They have a real folk feel to them whilst still being accessible to a more ‘musical theatre’ audience. Clark and Compton were brave enough not to shy away from the Cornish roots and some of the music was even delivered in Cornish. The song ‘A Matter of Time’ really stuck with me with a haunting melody to it and ‘The Mysterious Life of the Backwards Man,’ was another highlight. I find it rare to fall for songs and be moved by them on a first listen but A Curious Case of Benjamin Button really is the exception to this rule.
The feel of this show was enhanced by the intelligent direction of Compton (is there nothing this man can’t do?!). It focused in on the storytelling element and shied away from flashy presentation which fitted perfectly with the setting of the show. There was so much attention to detail with the simple use of crates and a few planks of wood to help set the scene but this transported the audience across the world with Benjamin with ease. The puppetry was also an inspired move and delivered brilliantly by all those involved.
The cast of 5 not only played over 40 roles between them but also provided the musical accompaniment for the whole piece. James Marlow played Benjamin Button and I instantly suspended by disbelief in the unlikely story and invested in his journey. His body language and very small changes as he grew younger was the perfect amount to enable to the audience to buy into this. Phillipa Hogg as Young Elowen simply shone energy and youthfulness on stage and her voice was well suited to the folk feel of the show. Rosalind Ford as Older Elowen also had the task of aging as James Marlow as Benjamin Button got younger. This contrast between how their bodies changed showed that you didn’t need special effects, just two actors doing a superb job. Finally Matthew Buns and Joey Hickman took on far too many roles to name between them, switching between characters with ease and delivering some stunning harmonies whilst doing so.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a show that delivers on every single level and one that deserves to be seen. The show focuses on moments in life and watching this show is a moment in my life I won’t forget in a hurry.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 8th June. To find out more about the show visit Southwark Playhouse website.
On a side note and something I don’t really comment on but on this occasion felt that it deserved to be noted was the programme! It included pages on how the show is funded and how the ticket price is broken down as well as a page about supporting British Musicals! Highly recommend picking up a copy!