Performed at the Ivy Arts Centre, Guildford.
Stephen Schwartz and Roger O Hirson’s Pippin is a show in which a band of strolling players re-enact the story of Prince Pippin, the son of King Charlemagne, and his journey in search of life’s meaning – war, religion, regicide, hedonism and rural domesticity are all tried.
When the musical was first staged on Broadway, Schwartz ultimately took issue with director and choreographer Bob Fosse about several aspects of the production, but I doubt Steven Dexter’s staging, as performed by Guildford School of Acting third-year students would cause any similar concerns.
Dexter’s interpretation of the show reflected the flower power 60s with his players being a band of Hippie travellers, and it worked well. He had the actors providing their own musical accompaniment and an interesting and successful innovation was the use of their voices as additional instruments.
Choreographer Ashley Luke Lloyd stamped his own style on the proceedings, but paid homage to Fosse on a couple of occasions – the mid-section of ‘Glory’ segued from a synchronised robotic style to the angular posturing trademark movements associated with the great man.
The large cast demonstrated ensemble playing at its best with members stepping out to play individual roles – throughout the audience is addressed and made to remember that they are watching a theatrical performance. The role of narrator/master of ceremonies was split between three actors, all of whom imbued the part with an air of mystery and menace.
There was a strong performance from Hugo Joss Catton as the King, the power of his voice impressing throughout. Andrew McIntosh’s Pippin had all the right elements – innocence, naivety and stubbornness. He was particularly pleasing in the duet ‘Love Song’ with Kate Eaves as Catherine with whom he finds the purpose to his life. Eaves was delightful, mixing a little guile with sweetness.
Two further performances also deserved a special mention: April Sullivan as Pippin’s stepmother was a truly comic and athletic creation. She had her big moment in ‘Spread a Little Sunshine’, delivered as burlesque, full of bumps and grinds. Perhaps the award for bringing the house down should go to Leah Penston as Pippin’s grandmother, Bethe. Her number. ‘No Time At All’ was played out with all the airs of a Broadway diva as she lamented the problems of old age.
Leading Players – BEN DAVIES, ELLIE ANN LOWE, ALICE ROSE DUPREE
Pippin – ANDREW McINTOSH
Charlemagne – HUGO JOSS CATTON
Lewis – HENRIK FERNER
Fastrada – APRIL SULLIVAN
Female Courtier – SOPHIE MAY WHITFIELD
Baron – JOSHUA DA COSTA
Noble – PATRICK DILLON BARRETT
Soldier – CHRIS BROADSTEEN
Bethe – LEAH PENSTON
Catherine – KATE EAVES
Theo – NATASHA BROWN
Otto a Duck – RANDOMLY CHOSEN AT EACH PERFORMANCE
Female Players – ELEANOR CHAGANIS, CLAIRE DE BELLOY, JESSICA HERN, SIRI MELAND,
Male Players – ASHLEY STILLBURN, ERIC WEST
Swing – JORDAN LIVESEY