The Lowry, Salford Quays
Until Saturday 20th May, 2017
Filmed on location in the crumbling villages and scarred communes of post-war Italy, Federico Fellini’s 1954 austere, neo-realist masterpiece La Strada is widely celebrated as one of cinema’s finest and most influential films.
It is almost 50-years since Lionel Bart’s disastrous musical adaptation of the film (starring a young Bernadette Peters) closed on Broadway after just one performance, though thankfully director Sally Cookson’s new production – devised by the company – overcomes any past omens with a sublime and effortlessly fluid new production that excels in every possible aspect.
Demonstrating the same level of creativity and innovation as with the exceptional Jane Eyre, Cookson once again proves herself an expert theatre practitioner at the top of her game.
Using Fellini, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli’s original film script work as a basis, La Strada is a poetic and tragic tale of love, loss and identity, set deep in the heart of the desolate Italian countryside, and following the struggles of the mismatched pairing of circus strong-man, Zampano and the naïve, spirited young Gelsomina.
Having bought the credulous youngster for a 10,000 lire fee, the brutish Zampano is forced to employ her as his assistant, using her to introduce his act and collect tips in her hat, though when they eventually encounter a ragtag travelling circus, the appearance of Zampano’s old rival, The Fool, soon complicates matters quite drastically.
Part coming-of-age tale, part road-trip, La Strada is certainly not the happiest of tales, yet nevertheless dazzles as it seamlessly whisks audiences through the bleak, rural landscape, from the inebriated din of bars to the cold confines of a convent chapel and the lights and high-wires of the circus tent.
Somewhat resembling Chaplin’s dishevelled Tramp character, and nicely channeling Giulietta Masina’s seminal performance in the film, Audrey Brisson is a fabulous Gelsomina, balancing the innocence and ignorance of youth with a strong will she is often forced to keep under wraps, yet one she is not afraid to let out when concerning financial support her family.
Stuart Goodwin’s ultra-masculine Zampano is more physically abusive than seen in the film, and though there are a few moments of possible redemption, Goodwin’s sturdy performance suggests a man incapable of escaping a corrupt, lecherous life.
Bart Soroczynski is a notable standout as The Fool, and his accordion-playing unicycling act at the beginning of the second act is a particularly highlight.
Performed live by the versatile 13-strong international actor-musician company, Benji Bower’s original soundtrack is both moving and rousing, complementing and driving the story without ever impeding the flow.
Designer Katie Sykes composite set is used to brilliant effect, making excellent use of the various props, wooden crates and other resources on offer to further evoke the various scenarios required.
Adapting classic films for the stage doesn’t always prove a successful venture, but in combining the original film material with a fresh, innovative new approach, La Strada succeeds where many others trip up.
Running Time: 1 hour and 55-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at The Lowry: Saturday 20th May, 2017.
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.