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



Federico Fellini’s La Strada receives nationwide reissue

Studiocanal / Independent Cinema Office (ICO) are proud to announce a nationwide reissue of Federico Fellini’s La Strada , recently beautifully restored in 2k, over sixty years since it won the first Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and launched both its director, and lead actress, Giulietta Masina to international stardom. La Strada returns to cinemas in a new digital restoration on 19 May 2017, followed by a new DVD/Blu-Ray/EST release from Studiocanal on 5 June.

In a story of true outsiders, Masina plays Gelsomina, a naïve young woman sold by her desperate mother to boorish strongman Zampanò (an immensely charismatic Anthony Quinn) to be both his wife and performance assistant as he tours central Italy. Zampanò – a brute by trade and by nature – repeatedly abuses Gelsomina as she struggles to learn the ropes; meanwhile, she finds a kindred spirit in his rival the Fool ( Richard Basehart). Soon all three find themselves part of the same travelling circus, but with tragic consequences.

Transcending the dogmatic underpinnings of the early neorealist movement, La Strada was key to exploring a new poetic sensibility in Italian cinema, as echoed in Nino Rota’s score; and marked Fellini’s definitive move towards a symbolic cinematic language that combined autobiography with universal concerns.

Coinciding with the film’s release comes a brand new stage adaptation directed by Olivier Award nominee Sally Cookson, on a UK tour now until 27 May 2017, receiving its London Premiere at The Other Palace on 30 May until 8 July.
Director Sally Cookson says: “Felini’s iconic film has always fascinated me and the thought of using it as a starting point to make a piece of theatre was one I couldn’t resist. A folk-tale like odyssey – this story sees three lost souls travelling ‘the road’ and searching in different ways to find meaning in their lives. Using physical story telling, music and movement, we will be attempting to find a theatricality to re imagine this story of human suffering, longing and redemption.”

Running time:  108 min / Cert PG

Special Features:

New Interview with director Julian Jarrold

New Interview with Peter Matthews: Senior Lecturer, Film & Television, London College of Communication

The Guardian Interview: Anthony Quinn (recorded at the BFI in 1995)

Giulietta Masina 1955 Cannes interview

Audio commentary by Chris Weigand on selected scenes