Aug 7 2017 | By More

★★★★☆  Another Winner

Edinburgh Tabernacle (Venue 120): Fri 4 – Sat 12 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Gorgeous singing, bags of life – and a stunning array of costumes – make Forth Children’s Theatre’s Pippin, at the Edinburgh Tabernacle to Saturday, another thoroughly entertaining and accomplished production.

If they never quite manage to convince us that Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 musical is a neglected classic, it is not for want of trying.

Frankie Cusack (Pippin) with Andrew Gill. Pic Mark Gorman

The story of Pippin, son of Charlemagne, and his efforts to find meaning and fulfilment in his life, is wilfully episodic. Schwartz (of Godspell and Wicked fame) shuns the concept of the eleven o’clock number to such a degree that not only is the opening number the only song that is likely to be familiar, but there is very pointedly no real finale.

Add to this a healthy dose of Brechtian alienation devices and a philosophy that owes much to 60s/70s Californian hippy-derived self-help, and it can all seem a little strange. FCT, however, attack it with such energy and charm that it seems rather sweet – allowing for some more adult remarks in Roger Hirson’s book that, even in a toned-down form, can jar a little.

That opening number – Magic To Do, which often crops up in ‘songs from the shows’ entertainments – is here a riot of dance, music and acrobatics from the 35-strong cast, impeccably choreographed and quite wonderfully sung. If nothing that comes after quite matches it, that is really the fault of the original work.

remarkable consistency

Vocally, this is all top notch. The singing is faultless, and the acting is distinguished by a remarkable consistency of accents as well as some extremely accomplished comic performances.

The cast of Pippin. Pic Mark Gorman

Hayley Scott’s direction is extremely good, turning what seems an unpromising stage layout into a real plus. Gus Harrower’s musical direction is superb, with a wonderfully together band also managing to add a soulful touch to a score that can sound a little too 70s soft-rock. Natasha Rose’s choreography is wonderfully inventive and, at its best, quite brilliant, although a couple of numbers could have more pizzazz.

Frankie Cusack’s Pippin is a thoroughly engaging performance, exuding winsome charm and athleticism. He also has a very appealing voice – although over a long run his habit of forcing the top notes could come back to haunt him. He is noticeably more restrained when duetting with Eilidh West as belated love interest Catherine; West herself combines humour and pathos excellently.

Andrew Gill’s Charlemagne is suitably commanding, while Moray McConachie, as Pippin’s half-brother Lewis, keeps the humour just the right side of broad, with very pleasing results.

The cast of Pippin. Pic Mark Gorman

Helen Hunter is given scope to display her timing and presence as Pippin’s stepmother Fastrada, while Isla Campbell’s featured number as granny Berthe is a real comedy highlight. Jojo Brassington, as Catherine’s son Theo, is a notably poised and confident performer for one so young.

The nature of the story means that many performers have a brief moment in the spotlight, then disappear, so it is imperative that they make an immediate impression. This certainly happens, with each of the company who get a couple of lines rising to the task.

The featured dancers, meanwhile – Laura Johnstone, Abby Pickavance, Morven McGeechan, Olivia Steele and dance captains Roisin Caulfield and Jude McLellan – shine in a variety of styles.

Harmony Rose-Bremner. Pic Mark Gorman

Despite being nominally Pippin’s story, the central figure is in many ways the Leading Player, the leader of a group of travelling players who tell the story. Manipulative and charismatic, the Player can berate the cast and even bring dead characters back to life, and needs to be a figure of some charisma. Here, Harmony Rose-Bremner is quite brilliant, prowling the stage with conviction, style and no little menace, while adding real soul and personality to the songs.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, the story never really coheres, with the second act in particularly struggling to make dramatic sense. However, there is so much to enjoy here that it does not really matter.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval
Edinburgh Tabernacle, 41-43 Inverleith Gardens, Eh3 5PR (Venue 120).
Friday 4 – Saturday 12 August 2017
Daily (not Monday) 7.30 pm; Sat matinees 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/pippin.
Company ticket line: 07794 144 372
FCT website: https://forthchildrenstheatre.wordpress.com
Twitter: @FCTCompany
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/forthchildrenstheatre/


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  1. Was there on opening night brilliant show. A great night considering its a little known musical. The kids done a wonderful job on it well worth seeing.