Writer in the room: Mike Akers
Based on work of: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli
Director: Sally Cookson
Reviewer: John Roberts
Based on the Oscar-winning film by renowned visual director Federico Fellini, Sally Cookson’s devised adaptation of La Strada welcomes you into the story of the quiet and naive Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) with open arms and then slowly begins to devour you with its dark and brooding atmosphere.
Gelsomina is forced by her mother to accompany and support strongman Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) after her sister mysteriously dies under the guardianship of the showman, what progresses is a story of love, desire, greed and finding yourself through this physical and metaphorical ride along La Strada (The Road).
Cookson, alongside movement director Cameron Carver have created a touching and clever world where movement and choreographed set pieces never feel incongruous to the narrative. Instead, these moments help layer the story and give it a richness which is rarely seen on the stage, however where this visual language is pitched perfectly the spoken text isn’t as effective. Arguably due to the devising process La Strada’s script feels a little underwhelming, the dialogue is passable but lacks the spark and tension needed to really bring an emotional connection to the characters.
Brisson as the emotionally reserved Gelsomina gives a touching and understated performance, her shy like clown shines through her melancholy and her journey pulls at your heartstrings, her revelatory-like moments of joy brings a sprinkling of colour to the otherwise monochromatic/sepia filled set designed by Katie Sykes which is an obvious homage to the film’s original visual style. Aideen Malone’s lighting design is sharp and plays with your senses, never really becoming colourful but always looming and present.
Supporting Brisson is a highly accomplished ensemble of actor-musicians who play Benji Bower’s ethereal compositions with passion and care, the music, much like a film bringing a real level of depth to what we are watching. Stuart Goodwin as the circus fool who falls in love with Gelsomina adds a punch of energy to proceedings, while Goodwin as the vicious Zampanò brings a real air of menace of gravitas to the production. It must be noted however, that one would argue that the use of his natural northern tongue sits incongruously to the natural melody of the diversity of the rest of the mainly European cast members.
La Strada is a touching and beautifully presented piece of ensemble theatre with a stunning central performance, while it may not be perfect, the visual style and its musicality leaves this as a piece of theatre to remember.
Runs until 20 May 2017 | Image: Robert Day