Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Up to town to catch up with Vixter, who's been working on Kneehigh's newest project The Umbrellas of Cherbourg which opens next week. We sneaked in at the back to grab a preview. In terms of scale and panache this show is the antithesis of The Red Shoes, and demonstrates the vast range of project work which now seems to fall under the company's parapluie.

Based on the sixties movie it's a strange and haunting piece of work, quite unlike anything else in London at present. On one level it's the complete triumph of idea over content as a thrown together mix of song, dance and complex design compete to provide a spectacular telling of a simple tale. On another there is something stylistically elegiac and profoundly beautiful about this story of passion replaced by pragmatism.

The cleverest trick is to have the evening fronted by cabaret hostess and torch chanteuse Meow Meow, who wittily leads us into the show through a series of lessons into French culture and language. Her great humour and playful recognition of our own potential prejudices enables us smooth passage from the fore stage into the sea mist of the harbour town and the light operatic world of the play itself.

From here on in it's uncharted territory. Director Emma Rice focuses on keeping things moving and so the story of young love, unplanned for pregnancy, separation and heart ache are at times lost in artful staging and theatrical bravado. It's had to deny the romanticism of the reunion at the end, however, where, despite recognition of earlier promises, the former lovers charmingly refuse the past and politely carry on their separate trajectories. Meow Meow returns to remind us C'est La Vie! before releasing us from class and sending us out onto Shaftesbury Avenue grateful for the times to come.


No comments: