Southwark Playhouse, London – until 24 March 2018
Based on the real-life story of Prince Pepin and his father, King Charlemagne, Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs to find adventure, fulfillment and passion in his life. To prove himself to his distracted father, Pippin goes to war. He finds no fulfillment there, so when the Leading Player convinces him to fight tyranny, Pippin kills his father and takes over the throne.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O Hirson and original direction by Bob Fosse, Pippin brings spectacle, comedy and whimsy to the transformed Southwark Playhouse.
Maeve Black’s set, complete with a false proscenium and footlight bulbs around the tongue of the stage, has transformed The Large into a magical, slightly decrepit playground of mystery.
Braving the snow, I enjoyed this production despite feeling it took a little while to get into. The story is fast-paced and full of intricacies but the varying styles and scenes are a bit too much of a mish-mash to be fully cohesive.
However, the performances are stellar across the board. Genevieve Nicholas is absolutely outstanding as the Leading Player. Poised to pounce and vocally faultless, she commands the stage every second she’s present.
She is very dynamic alongside Jonathan Carlton in the title role who sings the role perfectly as well as having great comic timing and stage presence. The two bounce off one another and have a sort of unsettling relationship.
Mention must also go to Bradley Judge as Lewis, Pippin’s brother, and Mairi Barclay as Fastrada and Berthe who both nail the comedic side, as well as providing some scene-stealing vocal moments.
As director, Jonathan O’Boyle has done a wonderful job of bringing the small cast together to create something electric in addition to showcasing individual talents.
Choreographer William Whelton has stuck to the shows iconic past, with Bob Fosse’s choreography central to the action but has brought a somewhat modern twist with some sharp, almost frantic movements at times.
Whilst the jumpiness of the book does let this show down at times, this production is like nothing else I’ve seen on a London stage recently and for that reason it must be applauded. The cast do an outstanding job and the razzle-dazzle of the costumes and in-your-face lights by Aaron J. Dootson do a wonderful job of wowing the audience.
For a mystical, magical, mystical, whimsical show that will surprise, make sure you get along to the Southwark Playhouse for the limited run of Pippin.