Review: La Strada at Cambridge Arts Theatre is on the road to success - beautiful, brutal, breathtaking and balletic - an unmissable phenonmenon

PUBLISHED: 00:59 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:41 29 March 2017

Audrey Brisson as Gelsomina and Stuart Goodwin as Zampano in La Strada

Audrey Brisson as Gelsomina and Stuart Goodwin as Zampano in La Strada

Archant

This stage adaptation of Fellini’s 1954 film, La Strada (The Road) is beautiful, brutal, breathtaking and balletic.

Bart Sorocynski as Il Matto (The Fool) in La Strada Bart Sorocynski as Il Matto (The Fool) in La Strada

It is uplifting and it is heartbreaking. Cambridge Arts Theatre has put its soul into this production, co-producing it ahead of a tour and a West End run.

Director Sally Cookson, writer Mike Akers, composer Benji Bower, movement director Cameron Carver and set and costume designer Katie Sykes have between them created a masterpiece.

This is pure entertainment from start to finish with performances that are electric. It is gripping.

Here we have actors who are singers, dancers, musicians and acrobats. They can do it all and what’s more, they can do it from the top of a telegraph pole.

Audrey Brisson is phenomenal as Gelsomina, the young girl sold by her mother to a rogue of a travelling showman so that she can afford to feed her four younger children.

Fellini set the film just after the Second World War when Italians were starving.

Gelsomina and the brutish Zampano travel the Italian countryside earning here and there. Gelsomina has promised her mother she will send money home but as soon as they make any, Zampano spends it on drink.

Brisson trained at the Central School of Drama as well as studying classical singing and working with the Cirque de Soleil as a vocalist and acrobat. Her talents are put to good use here. A tiny little person, her facial expressions and body language are an absolute joy and her singing voice is pure bliss.

Her skills and versatility, and those of her fellow actors, are reminiscent of the time of Charlie Chaplin when actors wouldn’t have dreamt of setting foot on a stage unless they could also sing, dance and turn somersaults. There is a Chaplinesque quality to this show, funny but poignant and strong on social message.

Matching this supreme level of performance are Stuart Goodwin as the terrifying Zampano - real power here - and Bart Soroczynski as Il Matto, (the fool) the trapeeze artist who also delights the audience with his tricks on his unicycle. Soroczynski is the comsumate performer.

The ensemble is equally elastic, actors who are also musicians and dancers who play, sing and move wonderfully.

At times, this play is like being at the circus, at other times like being at a party, but always you are in a place where everything is heightened because people are desperate.

This clever piece of theatre is delightful, edge of seat entertainment. It will cross language barriers, age barriers, all barriers. It has universal appeal. Don’t just see it, buy shares in it.

La Strada is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 8.

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