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La Strada - Theatre Review

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by Rachael Sneddon (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer working in Manchester.
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Enter the world of Gelsomina
Last night, I had the pleasure of entering a world like no other, as I sat down to watch La Strada at Salford's The Lowry Theatre. Over the course of one evening, I felt I had experienced the vast poverty of an Italy suffering from the after-effects of war, alongside the hope that comes from finding your own feet and making your own way in the world.

theatre, lowry, la strada, gelsomina, zampano, federico fellini
La Strada at The Lowry Theatre

La Strada is based on Federico Fellini's 1954 film of the same name. Instantly a favourite with influential people such as the Her Majesty the Queen and Walt Disney, it tells the story of an innocent girl who is sold by her mother to Zampano, to perform as part of his Strong Man act following the mysterious death of her sister. Reluctant to go, but desperate to help support her family, Gelsomina initially struggles to find her own voice, and to discover what she can do best, as she contends with Zampano's drinking, womanising and general violent nature. Upon meeting Il Matto at the Circus, Gelsomina's confidence begins to grow, as he tells her that everything and everyone has a purpose.

The production proved a true rollercoaster throughout. One moment, director Sally Cookson pulls you into a visual feast of music, joy and kinmanship – to a bar or a wedding or to the circus, where you literally feel like jumping on your feet and participating. You can feel Gelsomina's wonder at the world she has found herself in, where it is possible to discover and develop skills to entertain others. Yet, the next minute, we feel bitterly betrayed as we witness the brutality of Zampano as he strikes the innocent Gelsomina whilst attempting to master her performance.

theatre, lowry, la strada, gelsomina, zampano, federico fellini
La Strada at The Lowry Theatre

The set it simplistic, but the choreography is not. The ensemble of actors adapt to each scene magically, picking up instruments and supporting Gelsomina as she wanders through this mysterious world. The music is beautifully in tune with what's going on, on stage, sometimes subtle and moving and at other times raucous and upbeat. My favourite moment was when Gelsomina first runs away and gets drunk – the choreography here is superb as she staggers around the stage; the audience truly feels woozy with her.

Audrey Brisson's performance as Gelsomina is truly beautiful to behold. She begins as a timid girl of the sea, unsure of her place in the world, but ends quite literally with a siren's song; her voice is utterly captivating. Stuart Goodwin plays Zampano with charisma. It is possible to see why the crowds are drawn to him. We can see both his charm, and his moments of tenderness with Gelsomina, as well as the problematic side of his character. Bart Soroczynski's Il Matto is charming and hilarious, taunting Zampano and amusing the audience in equal measures.

theatre, lowry, la strada, gelsomina, zampano, federico fellini
La Strada at The Lowry Theatre

The rest of the cast work hard to support the leading characters, each playing a variety of roles – nobody gets a break, and it is clear to see that everyone is enjoying themselves immensely.
La Strada isn't simply like watching a play –it's watching a theatrical performance, a circus and a magic show all wrapped up in one. It's a constant contradiction; beautiful and yet bleak, heart-warming whilst heart-breaking.

La Strada is currently on tour in the UK. It is on at Salford's The Lowry Theatre from 15th May-20th May, before appearing at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from the 22 – 27 May and ending up at The Other Palace in London from 30 May - 8 July.

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Phone: 0843 208 6000
Where: The Lowry Theatre
Your Comment
Looks brilliant!
by Former Writer (score: 2|308) 1710 days ago
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