Lavender Theatre, Epsom – until 5th August 2023
Reviewed by Fozia Munshi-Nicholson
This is the Lavender Theatres inaugural performance. The Lavender Theatre is an open-air theatre set amongst picturesque lavender fields, and boasts all things lavender, lavender trees rows of lavender bushes. They have a gift shop selling lavender honey and soaps amongst other things.
The theatre experience begins before the performance even starts, you can pre-buy a food hamper and enjoy a picnic before the performance whilst enjoying the gorgeous views.
My visit was during the first week of the very first time this theatre has been running, and the team were experiencing a few inevitable teething issues, my food hamper was not as requested but the staff couldn’t do enough to quickly rectify the issue politely and apologetically.
Then we had the English weather to contend with, all week it has been sunny, but on this day when I went attended, it rained, relentlessly. The theatre has many covered areas for guests to enjoy their food, we shared our table with fellow guests and enjoyed meeting new people.
The seating area of the theater is covered by a canopy, however section A was subject to rain falling in their laps from the canopy edge. We scooted to section B which was better covered.
The show performance can only be described as enthralling, the cast, all of them, from the star Surie who played Annie Oakley, down to the three children played by Mahlie Duval, Olivia Ainsworth and Poppy Lerougetel were spectacular, at one point the children had had to lie on the floor pretending to be in bed and they did it naturally as if they were not lying on a soaking wet floor and being rained on.
The show was brilliantly choreographed the cast were amazing and danced and sang as if they were in the sun-soaked prairies and not being soaked by the English rain. I haven’t seen a better musical in the West End. It was slick, it was polished, and the cast were all spectacular.
The show set in the prairies in 19th century follows Surie’s Annie Oakley’s rise to fame as a the best sharpshooter in the west, much to the chagrin of her lover the womanising Frank Butler played by Charlie Mccullagh. Surie’s voice is beautiful, and she has excellent comic timing, stunningly illustrated in the song ‘Anything You Can Do’, during which she displays her great vocal range.
The supporting cast put on a dazzling performance, especially the love affair between Winnie Tate played by Nina Bell and Tommy Keeler played by Joseph Vella. The pair are funny and charming together as the young lovers frustrated by Chloe Harts Dolly Tate who has higher aspirations for her kid sister.
The music was on point and the songs from the opening of ‘There’s no Business like Show Business’ were rousing and fun right to the end.
The only thing I would change is for the stage to be covered as other open-air theaters do. Not because the actors in any way presented as if they were being rained on or uncomfortable, but it can’t have been comfortable for them. I’d also recommend theatre goers taking a wrap in case the weather turns as it was a bit chilly.
I look forward to the Lavender Theatre putting on many more productions and if you can I would highly recommend going to see Annie Get your Gun at the Lavender Theatre, its an entire experience, and a great day out.