by Julie Wallis twitter.com/Nicenic63
La Strada at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
La Strada is at Belgrade Theatre this week:
Gelsomina who is sold by her mother for 10000 lira to a strongman who travels the land, the fact he had her sister as his assistant and her premature death brings him back to Gelsominas mother, He beats tiny Gelsomina and leaves her alone at night whilst he spends time in the arms of local women. Gelsomina and strongman Zampanò join a circus and the clown has a soft spot for naive Gelsomina but Zampanò forbids Gelsomina from having any sort of friendship with Il Matto the clown and the unlikely trio end up in a fight in which Il Matto is killed by a single punch from Zampanò. This is not a cheerful, feelgood musical, it’s dark and gritty.
Audrey Brisson is convincing as the youngster Gelsomina with a naive charm of her own, Gelsomina even manages to squeeze a couple of laughs out of the audience. Stuart Goodwin as Zampanò plays his part well, with equal measures of kindness and cruelty towards his young charge I was never sure whether he was the good guy or the bad guy until the end. Bart Soroczynski as Il Matto the clown was a breathe of fresh air in this tragedy, a talented guy, I’m not sure where casting managed to find an actor who could ride a unicycle whilst playing the accordion but I’m very impressed that they did.
While Act One was quite grim, I did enjoy the wedding scene and the bar scene where the lighting and music really seemed to convey their scenes so very well. But for the most the grey backdrop let’s you know this is heavy going. After the interval the circus was in town and again the wonderful lighting and upbeat tempo was perfectly reflected… but not for long. After seeking shelter from a nun (who for some reason was up a telegraph pole) Zampanò is back to being Mr. Nasty.
I loved the stripped back staging – no big sets here, mostly a grey backdrop, some crates and a couple of telegraph poles on stage, Zampanò rides a motorcycle which is represented by him sitting astride a crate with handlebars in his hand, my own imagination filled in the gaps very well.
I was less keen on the ensemble/swing rolling tyres across the stage, yes it represented travel but I found it a little too art-house for my own personal tastes, but that said, I watched a show I would never have chose to see and it was a very well performed play. This musical is quite unlike anything I have ever seen before, I tend to think of musicals as being cheery, this was hard hitting and grim. More of a tragedy with some great music rather than your usual jolly musical.
La Strada is on until Saturday 18th February at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Tickets here: belgrade.co.uk/event/la-strada
Julie was invited to see La Strada for #BrumHour by the Belgrade Theatre. This is her honest view.