Bridewell Theatre – until 19 May
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
You have to pinch yourself at times to remind yourself that the cast of Sedos’ Pippin are all amateur performers. In fact, the whole production is more polished and entertaining than many professional shows.
Stephen Schwartz’s musical is not to everybody’s tastes, with some productions overcompensating for the slim plot with gimmicks and circus or magic tricks. Director Chris Adams keeps things simple, using the fantastic space of the Bridewell Theatre imaginatively, and giving the players and their makeshift scenery the true feel of a ragtag bunch of artists. The talented band are up in the balcony behind the stage, with conductor Ed Curry in full view ready to receive instructions, and criticism, from the Leading Player (Corin Miller).
The show follows Pippin, son of Charlemagne, on his quest for fulfilment in life, guided by the Players. As his stepmother Fastrada plots to gain the throne for his half-brother Lewis, Pippin searches for his own corner of the sky and his own glory. He tries being a soldier, sex, drugs and finally patricide – and all before the interval – before trying out an ordinary life with an ordinary family (much to the disgust of his guide) before the much-promised finale.
Corin Miller is fantastic as the Leading Player, cajoling, bullying and seducing Pippin into making dubious choices on his journey. She is almost constantly on stage, prowling like a caged tiger as she watches Pippin’s experiences, and is a powerhouse vocally and physically. Her chemistry with Pippin (Joe Thompson-Oubari) is incredible, with Thompson -Oubari subtly giving Pippin more and more confidence, purpose and strength as the show progresses. Charlie Welch is sweet but spiky as Catherine, making the most of the antagonism between Miller’s and her own character. Kris Webb (Charlemagne), Vicky Terry (Fastrada) and Paul Nicholas Dyke (Lewis) provide great comic relief, and Annie Houseago steals the show as Pippin’s grandmother with an irresistible singalong rendition of No Time at All.
Roger O. Hirson’s book is flawed, with a few underwhelming jokes, but the cast do their utmost with what they’re given. The musical numbers are memorable and choreographer Paul Brookland Williams mixes Fosse with modern and classical styles to create energetic routines performed with skill by the cast.
In the hands of Sedos, Pippin is a gem of a musical – fiercely fun and revelling in its strangeness. One not to miss