Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
The yellow stage bulbs are low, the curtains are drawn, and the room is silent. Waiting in hushed darkness a spot light appears on the white draped curtain, and I am captivated by the silhouette of a tattooed woman seducing the audience with her erotic dancing. I hear the wonderful “Music to Do” echoing through the room but I am so intrigued by the mysterious figure behind the curtain that I fail to notice the Leading Player (Beth Simpson) make her physical presence known until she is standing centre stage. With long red hair and red lips adorning a tight purple corset and black leggings the rubenesque Leading Player introduces us to the rest of the troupe that will be entertaining the audience for the next few hours. Dressed in burlesque apparel the troupe immediately breaks the fourth wall shouting and leering at the audience “welcome!” in order to entice the audience to watch their magical show.
Pippin is a musical with an infectiously unforgettable score about the heir to the Frankish throne. Prince Pippin begins an existential journey as he has become unfulfilled with life as a prince and he believes there is more to life. Seeking “extraordinary” meaning and happiness in life through glories on the battlefield, temptations of the flesh and political power, the Leading Player allows us to join Pippin on his travels where Pippin finds contentment in the mundane when he meets Catherine (Megan Ryan) and Theo (William Teasdale).
The show begins with the wonderful Pippin played by Ciaran Keddy as he enthusiastically discusses the dreams and desires of a young man to capture his “Corner of the Sky” and to know his place in the world. It is during this scene that I am moved by the enchanting yet powerful vocals of Ciaran Keddy. His voice is akin to that of Idina Menzel. The quality pitch and tones of his voice left me stunned. Never had I heard such a voice that wasn’t already on Broadway and I was lost to his musical talent. With such raw artistic talent Keddy took the show to a new height.
However he did not do it alone. I was mesmerised by the towering Berthe played by the comic (Barrie Wilson) simply for mastering six inch, silver, sparkly, strappy stilettoes the entire evening. How he managed to elegantly sing and dance in stilettoes all evening demands an award; solely for his professionalism and commitment to the role of Berthe. Berthe (Pippins exiled grandmother) attempts to comfort Pippin after the spoils of war have left him despairing when he realises that there is no glory or victory to be gained in war. Berthe educates Pippin with her wisdom of years and persuades him to live in the now “No Time At All,” as life is precious and fleeting and it is the “simple things in life that count”.
Taking her advice, Pippin adventures further into his existential journey, as he explores the temptations of the flesh. With a choreographed erotic display of his womanising, orgies and threesomes, Pippin becomes embroiled into a fetish world of leather and men on leashes. Yet tasting all the carnal pleasures life has to offer Pippin is still unsatisfied with life. Despite enjoying many lustful liaisons he questions his desires – for what is carnal pleasure without love? It is here that Pippin recognises that relationships without love leave you “empty and unfulfilled.”
After a brief and unsuccessful political career after he murders his father Charles played by the talented Chris Honey the weary Pippin collapses when he is rescued by a widow (Megan Ryan). By beseeching Pippin to help her tend her large estate by completing mundane working tasks, she nurtures his wounded soul back to health and the two eventually fall in love; and Pippin begins to appreciate the joys the little things bring him. However when Catherine asks Pippin to take the seat as the head of the household Pippin retracts his affections dismissing their love as “not-extraordinary” and returns back to his castle breaking the sweet Catherine’s heart.
It is here that we are introduced to the wonderful finale, complete with pyrotechnics, singing, and busty burlesque actors dressed eloquently over railings, the troupe sing and entice Pippin to complete his final performance with the troupe. His last extraordinary act. However Pippin comes to realise that happiness does not lie in “extraordinary endeavours, but rather in the un-extraordinary moments that happen every day.” And he returns to his beloved Catherine.
Generally the performances were solid and convincing, the costumes and dance routines made the evening delightfully entertaining. The set was used to its maximum potential with the troupe often dressed over the scaffolding and always in view. The music was played flawlessly and the entire production was youthful and full of energy. Living in an age where thin is “in” and body shaming is an everyday occurrence it was wonderful to be introduced to a cast of many shapes and sizes both male and female dressed provocatively. Did this have a negative effect? Not at all. The crowd cheered, jeered, and laughed with the troupe and Pippin and the crowd left with smiles and words of congratulations upon their lips.
Such a wonderful performance left me both melancholy and exhilarated. As watching the show forced me to reminisce over my own life dreams and disappointments whilst leaving me naively optimistic that there is hope, and that perhaps I too will find my “Corner of the Sky.”
Reviewer : Katrina Hewgill