Emotive performances, circus tricks, stunning sets, and outstanding vocals delighted audiences at the opening night of Italian drama La Strada at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre.
Boasting an international all-singing, all-dancing cast and Olivier award-winning producer, theatre-goers were looking forward to a sensational show and they certainly weren’t disappointed.
The innovative adaptation of Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning film, La Strada tells the story of the naively innocent Gelsomina, bought by street performer Zampanò to join his ‘strong man’ act – only to be treated with cruelty and derision. After meeting another entertainer, ‘The Fool’, Gelsomina finds herself torn between the two men, with tragic consequences.
Offering just the right blend of entertainment, tragic themes were juxtaposed with comic interludes, witty one-liners and circus scenes.
A simple but striking set evoked the atmosphere of rural Italian countryside enveloped by post-war austerity, with an ominous dark backdrop and swirling mist setting the tone for a story shadowed with sorrow and desperation.
Audrey Brisson excelled in the role of Gelsomina, the permanent soulless look on her wide-eyed face epitomising a young woman who hasn’t been allowed to form her own identity.
Yet, despite portraying a character consumed by grief, Audrey incorporated entertaining light-hearted street performances, with her power to ‘predict the weather’ both funny and endearing.
Meanwhile, Stuart Goodwin was hideously convincing in the role of drunk bully Zampanò, with his appalling treatment of Gelsomina, his arch rival, female conquests, and even a saintly nun, painting the picture of a manipulative and mean man.
Tight-rope-walking and unicycle-riding Bart Soroczynski offered the perfect dose of humorous entertainment as ‘The Fool’ Il Mattio, who got the second half off to a brilliant start as he took theatre-goers to the circus.
Translated as ‘The Road’, La Strada succeeded in transporting audiences physically and emotionally, adopting simple but effective techniques to move from the countryside, to buzzing bar, to the bright lights and colours of the circus.
Offering just the right blend of entertainment, tragic themes were juxtaposed with comic interludes, witty one-liners and circus scenes. While the sensational songs from the seamless ensemble radiated talent, passion and energy that was a delight to witness.
La Strada was imaginative, creative, and thoroughly moving, and without giving away any spoilers, the finale certainly sent shivers down my spine – with emotions perhaps heightened as the play’s themes still have relevance in today’s society.
Sally Cookson’s adaptation certainly did justice to Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, bringing a totally unique and brilliant production to the Everyman Theatre stage.
Tuesday 07 March 2017
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