Side Show, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Side Show
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 27th October 2016 by Olivia Mitchell

Side Show is an original musical which is unique in more than one way. Firstly because it tells the story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton and secondly because it flopped not once but twice on Broadway. The original 1997 production ran for a mere 91 performances with the more recent 2014 revival running for only 56, perhaps it was not a Broadway audiences cup of tea or perhaps it did not have the finesse and omph  which this current production does.

The shows British premiere is a smaller more intimate production at the Southwark Playhouse where a dark but enticing spell is placed on the audience. The opening line "Come look at the freaks" sums up the whole theme of the show really. 

Based on the true story of the Hilton sisters- Daisy (Louise Dearman) and Violet (Laura Pitt-Pulford), the Brighton born conjoined twins who became a Vaudeville hit in the 1920s and 30s- this is a show that exposes the abnormal fascination they attracted as well as investigating the human struggle for individuality and identity. It asks the question of how you can live a private life when you're quite literally attached to your sister.

Of course, this show is hinged on the leading ladies who completely blow the roles out of the park. Laura is the perfect Violet- shy, loving and vulnerable, whilst Louise's Daisy is determined, confident and sassy. Their voices meld in perfect harmony- both standing out on their own and creating beautiful moments together. Who Will Love Me As I Am was the standout of the night and the moment I really saw what all the fuss about these West End stars is about.

Aside from the twins there are a number of other wonderful talents in the cast. Jake (Jay Marsh) was a favourite from his first line in The Devil You Know when his voice just blew me away. Haydn Oakley's Terry was mesmirising, his big number Private Conversation was heartbreaking and completely scene stealing. Sir played by Chris Howell was depicted wonderfully; he managed to make you despise him whilst still feeling a little sorry for him.

The supporting cast is fantastic; starting out as the "freaks" of the Side Show and continuing to play a number of other characters whilst bringing Henry Krieger's score to life. Full use is made of the Southwark Playhouse's unique stage with great choreography that is carried out with complete style.

The book is somewhat lacking in drama and doesn't quite deliver in the way one would expect, especially in the first act. However after the interval there were more heightened emotions and a lot more punch. Hannah Chissick's production puts the twins at the centre of not only the physical freak show but the freak show of their own lives and in the one in their minds. Overall this is a fabulous revival which is mesmirising and  unique and a sure favourite among theatre lovers.

Side Show is playing at the Southwark Theatre until December 3rd. Visit the website and book tickets here.

photos by Pamela Raith