Review: “An interminably engaging stage show, which is sure to lift the spirits”★★★★ La Strada at Exeter Northcott Theatre

Federico Fellini’s film La Strada became a cult classic after winning an Academy Award over 60 years ago and the cautionary tale, set in the unforgiving world of an Italian travelling circus has been reinvigorated to make a visually impressive and heart-warming stage show, writes Nicky Sweetland.

The new musical adaptation – which follows Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) a poor urchin, who is sold by her mother to a thuggish circus strongman – is touring the UK prior to a run at The Other Palace and if the performance at the Exeter Northcott Theatre is anything to go by, Londoners are in for treat.

Director Sally Cookson has taken the classic film and created a piece of theatre which is faithful for those who loved the original, but somehow also manages to add a new dimension to trajectory of the tale.

Gelsomina is abused by her master, the brutish Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) until she finds inner strength thanks to encouragement from an adorable circus fool (Bart Soroczynski).

In a story, which takes audiences on a journey of love and loss, Sally Clarkson’s perceptive interpretation almost sees the servant become the master, so the inventible tragedy has an even more powerful implication.

Much of the peripheral action is depicted using actor/musicians to create both the backdrop and the musical accompaniment, which cleverly brings the community feel of a circus troop into the fore and means there is a familial comfort even during the most traumatic moments.

Set on a wooden plinth, the 13 strong ensemble also utilise the props to create a circus tent, shoreline and even motorbike from the most simple objects and with Benji Bower’s haunting melodies, you’ll be transported to world where cruelty is offset by benevolence.

It’s the lead cast who really must be given praise however, with Audrey Brisson giving a slightly streetwise edge to the otherwise wholesome Gelsomina and Stuart Goodwin perfectly balancing Zampanò’s brusque exterior with his tormented soul.

It’s worth the ticket price just to see Bart Soroczynski’s unicycle routine, which is not only technically exceptional, but is performed with such an endearing charm, that you can’t help but fall in love with his Fool, Il Matto.

Thrilling and triumphant this adaptation of La Strada marries the traditional with the modern in perfect measure and the result is an interminably engaging stage show, which is sure to lift the spirits.

La Strada is at Exeter Northcott until 6 May and will run at The Other Palace from 30 May until 8 July

 

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