Barnum at The Menier Chocolate Factory

Barnum at The Menier Chocolate Factory

Barnum is one of these shows that I have always wanted to see but for some reason never have. When I heard that the Menier Chocolate Factory was putting this on my excitement peaked as I always seem to adore whatever spin the Menier puts on its productions.

Barnum follows the man himself, Taylor (P.T) Barnum from his first venture as a museum owner through to the beginning of his relationship and touring circus with Bailey and many adventures in between including his marriage to Charity, his relationship with Jenny Lind and his time as a politician.

BarnumA show set in a circus leaves high expectations for the feats that you expect to see to be performed. The show lived up to my high hopes. Despite the limited size of the theatre there was no limit to the imagination in this show. Often simple techniques are used but in moments such as Tom Thumb’s number they are executed brilliantly and no amount of money would rival the charm derived from this effective use of props and scenery.

The ensemble only add to this air of wonder throughout the show. Each time they appeared they did so in stylised movement, choreographed by Rebecca Howell. Some of the lifts and circus tricks performed by them were mesmerising but it never felt as if any of this had been shoehorned in.

Mention must also go to the 2 leading ladies. Laura Pitt-Pulford was Charity Barnum and she managed to convey Charity at many stages of her life with apparent ease and captured both the serious side of her as well as the side that enjoyed a good ‘humbug.’ It was Charity that throughout the show I sided with. Celinde Schoenmaker played Jenny Lind and there cannot have been a more perfect person for the part. With both a voice and the face of an angel it did not take much imagination from the audience that this was Barnum’s big attraction and the hysteria she caused his audiences and Barnum himself.

BarnumUnfortunately Marcus Brigstocke as P.T. Barnum lets the show down. Whilst his acting was pleasant his voice was not strong enough to carry the show and numerous solo numbers and duets. He has a big title to live up to: The Greatest Showman on Earth and Brigstocke fell short of this by someway. He lacked the general flair and in the Circus skills arena the tightrope proving to be a challenge too far. This was stark contrast to the ensemble who performed every trick with apparent ease making the casting feel even more misplaced.

The storyline of the show itself isn’t particularly deep but it is fun and has quirky moments. I soon forgot about the simple plot when the show began and I was swept away with ensemble on a colourful ride through Barnum’s life. It is a show that is probably much like Barnum’s circus shows themselves, not a lot of substance but full of ‘humbug,’ and a great deal of overall showmanship and even more enjoyment.

To find out more about Barnum then visit the Menier’s website.

If you liked the review of Barnum you might also like my review of Big Fish and Annie.




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