Sunday, October 18, 2015

Barnum - Review - Customs House

Customs House
17th Oct 2015

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up and prepare to be amazed by the sights, sounds and sensations brought to you by Starset Theatre! No flim flam, no bunkum and 100% no humbug!

Starset Theatre have taken on an almighty challenge with the story of P T Barnum and the road that led to Barnum and Bailey's Circus - the greatest show on earth!
The stage is set with the trappings of a circus tent and the fun begins with tumbling clowns, acrobats and jugglers...before the entrance of Mr Barnum himself (Peter Archer) on a unicycle! Barnum is a man with a dream - he wants to bring colour and excitement to people's lives, and make some money along the way. He is extravagant and extrovert and flamboyant. A dreamer with big dreams and he's not going to let a little matter of the truth get in the way! He is the king of humbug, and he knows how to fool everyone into believing his "trimmings". Everyone that is except Mrs Barnum (Katie Howes). A former school teacher and the steadying force in his life, she understands her husband completely and strives to keep his feet on the ground - at least some of the time.

This is a great production - a challenge, for sure, to recreate the thrill and adventure of a circus on a small stage. It calls for more than just singing and acting skills - and Peter Archer throws himself (quite literally at times!) into the role of P T Barnum - and it doesn't always go strictly to plan but he never gives up! He sings, dances a bit, jumps, cycles, and walks the tightrope...just about...and part of the joy of the show is his interaction with the audience when it doesn't quite go to plan. In fact all of the cast coped with the physical demands of their roles brilliantly - there was no panic when balls were dropped or plates refused to spin, though there were a fair few grins when the seam of Mr Barnum's trousers gave way!

This is a great family show - performed with enthusiasm and professionalism. The little clowns are adorable - drawing awhs! and applause from the audience everytime they come on stage. At times there are a lot of people on stage dancing and juggling, and throwing bricks (yes, you read that right) and amazingly no-one bumps into anyone else - except for the clowns, who do it on purpose, or has an accident (except Peter Archer and his trousers, and the jury is still out as to whether that was meant to happen or not!)

Great performances by Katie Howes, Charlotte Archer as the 160 year old Joice Heth, and Michael Brabbs as the ringmaster, and fabulous singing from Angela Hannon as the Blues Singer and Laura Dollimore as the Swedish Nightingale, to mention just a few, though all the cast deserve credit.
It's also great to have a live band playing the music rather than taped backing music (which is all to common these days)!

A fine afternoon's entertainment, well done to all involved - challenge met!
Final shows on Sunday 18th 2.30pm and 7pm.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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