Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A classic production of a classic text".

"Candide" -

Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama - , Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama - , May-30-18
  Voltaire's 18th century masterpiece "Candide" is one of the most famous pieces of literature of all time. So, famous in fact that our household contains two copies of it, one in French ( unread) and one in English ( unread). We do, however, possess a copy of the original music from Leonard Bernstein's version (well played) which I have seen performed twice, but I had never seen it performed in play form.

Enter modern playwright Mark Ravenhill ( Shopping & F*cking, amongst others) to update it in his own inimitable fashion. As we enter the Richard Burton theatre we are greeted by a lady in 18th century costume and make-up eating from a large tub of Haegen-Das ice-cream whilst listening to a variety of 1930's and 1940's torch songs. So, I knew this was not going to be a traditional production and boy was I right.

The story begins by being told as a play watched by Candide and his new lady friend who hopes that re-creating his life ( from his journal) will finally get him to show some passion for her. While they are in 18th century costume the actors appear in a variety of more modern outfits, including American football shorts as they fight a war. To be honest my head was beginning to reel at this stage until Candide uttered that he couldn't take anymore ( I was starting to agree with him) and he stormed through the back of the set and amazingly the audience were encouraged to follow him into another theatre behind the stage.

Now things got really interested. Great playwrights have the ability to create great drama from either new work and adapting existing texts. It can be a dangerous game tampering with a classic but even more rewarding when your vision connects with the original concept and works in a modern setting. The key to Voltaire's "Candide" is the rallying call that "this is the best of all possible worlds", though the author ultimately wants us to accept the world as it is. Whilst Candide's astonishing quest to find his one true love through a variety of astonishing adventures is part of the narrative though modern references to global warming, globalisation, fame etc are all fully explored without feeling that they have been crowbarred in to show Mark Ravenhill's concerns.

Having watched a lot of plays over the last 40 years as a reviewer you want to kept on the edge of your seat , not knowing, but excitedly waiting to see what happens next. This is how I felt tonight. There is a lot going on here but director Andrew Whyment brilliantly succeeds in keeping events form getting too out of hand and potentially losing the audience.

If I complimented everyone individually on their efforts regarding the set, the costumes the music etc it would sound like a rambling Oscar acceptance speech so I will just say a hearty congratulations to everyone concerned with the technical side of the show. Similarly, the perfomers must be congratulated as a whole. This production has layers upon layers upon layers of characters and most of the actors are required to perform a variety of extremely different roles and pull off this tricky feat extremely impressively.

My only minor gripe is about the length of the show. I like shows that start early ( 7.15pm) and I like shows that run without an interval but I felt a running time of nearly two hours without a break was pushing the limits for this reviewer even though he was having a great time. So, a little cutting might help.

Having said that I can't recommend this show highly enough & was so high-spirited at the end that I declined the offer of a Optimism pill.

Catch it while you can you won't be disappointed.

Reviewed by: David Cox

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