La Strada – Cheltenham Everyman REVIEW

On your average Monday night I somehow found myself whisked into a world of neo-realism and post-war Italy, meeting Gelsomina and her family. Wide eyed and naive Gelsomina is swept up by Zampanò, a travelling strong man, who aims to make a fortune with his chain breaking act. It is here that we begin to follow silently determined Gelsomina’s tale of friendship and tragedy.

Federico Fellini’s 1957 Oscar-winning masterpiece is a hidden gem amongst the abundance of overdone stories within the world of theatre. Since then he has won a multitude of awards, but is still unknown to the younger generation of today. His niece hopes that the magnificent show inspired by his film will allow people to get to know his work and remember him and his work. ESC_2786

I was only a couple of minutes into the story when I spotted Bristol Old Vic influence. Their signature style oozed out of this play and I soaked up every little bit. The ensemble of 13 switched between actors, musicians and stagehands. Each with their own direction and purpose but acting as one. This allowed for ingenious transitions between scenes and for them to manipulate the tone at the drop of a hat with techniques as simple as the clicking of fingers.

Audrey Brisson prospered as young Gelsomina and encapsulated the slightly lost and full-of-wonder child as she is slowly exposed to us. Innocently sat legs dangling from her box whilst the drunk ensemble whirled around her, it is so easy to fall in love with this perfect pocket-sized character. You see her progression and growth as she faces the problems of life on the road. One of which is her travelling companion Zampanò played by Stuart GooESC_1588dwin. She is thrown between Zampanò and accordion playing unicyclist, The Fool played by Bart Soroczynski, forcing her to choose between her two guardians. It seemed like these main characters have been created with the actors in mind, the three slotting together perfectly. Despite only seeing the show once, I simply couldn’t imagine anyone else playing these main roles.

Multiple members of the ensemble, as well as Gelsomina, took the audience aback with gorgeous numbers sprinkled into the piece. The music alone was exceptional, topped only by the singers who accompanied. The standard was not something I expected from a play where singing isn’t the main attraction.

Tragic scenes clashed with upbeat sequences bursting with colour, music and laughter. A satisfying balance of dark and light to grip you tightly to the characters before cutting ties and bringing you back down to earth.

You can see La Strada at the Everyman until Saturday March 11

 

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