Pippin at the Garden Theatre
Have you ever felt that you were destined for more than an ordinary life? That you were meant to be special, famous or historic? That feeling of knowing you’re meant for greatness – if you could just figure out what you’re meant to be great at – is at the heart of Pippin. This fourth-wall-breaking, hilarious and incredibly catchy 90-minute musical follows a young prince on his quest to lead a fulfilling existence.
Through war, pillaging, murder, sex and family life, our young hero floats from role to role, becoming more and more depressed by his lack of purpose. The chorus, which could be seen as intrusive thoughts, demons, or simply a rogue acting troupe, narrate his journey and push him to greater and greater extremes – all for our entertainment.
Pippin’s set is filled with psychedelic, 60s-style tapestries. Plants line the walls, while a stick of incense wafts at the back. The props are minimal but used to hilarious effect – especially a yellow feather which represents the duck that turns Pippin’s life around.
The audience sits in a rectangle around the stage, which would be frustrating if the actors didn’t go to great lengths to include all of the audience in the show. Most of the cast, dressed as 60s travelling hippies in a range of tie-dye outfits, switch between roles effortlessly as they narrate Pippin’s tale. This show has an impressive musical score with a range of catchy and relatable songs, and the cast bring equally impressive vocals that really do justice to the soundtrack. No Time At All and Spread A Little Sunshine are particularly memorable, but this show will have you listening to the whole broadway album on the train home.
Tsemaye Bob-Egbe (lead player) has an especially spectacular vocal range, Joanne Clifton ( Bertha) is delightful as the horny granny and Dan Krikler ( Charles) does an awesome job at his super-fast Modern Major General-esque number, but none of the actors disappoint. Pippin takes place under a marquee-style covering, which means some of the dialogue is drowned out by sounds of the road outside, but the crew makes the most of what they have. This play is interactive without being intimidating or embarrassing – and it still manages to stick to strict social distancing rules, which are also acknowledged in the performance.
Pippin’s story may be a parable about finding joy in everyday things, or perhaps a portrayal of navigating one’s mental health and coming out the other side, or simply a fun evening of catchy music and audience participation which one doesn’t need to read into. However you choose to see it, there’s no denying that Pippin is a delight to watch. The upbeat yet strangely deep feel of this musical is just what’s needed after the year we’ve had. If you can, go and see the show to support the industry. It’s productions like this which demonstrate why it’s so important for the theatre to survive; there is nothing like being in a live audience watching the spit fly out of a singer’s mouth. The show must go on – please help make that happen.
Photo: Bonnie Britain
Pippin is at the Garden Theatre from 8th September until 11th October 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.