Amelie (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday 28 August 2019

New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Tuesday 27th August 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

This UK production of Amélie has the added pressures of comparing not only the classic, cult film, but also to the original Broadway run. However, this production has been vastly reworked from the version which premiered in the US and has brought back much of the typically French charm and nuance. The sweet tour (which is also heading to The Other Palace) is full of delight and provides a carefree way to spend an evening.

Young Amélie Poulain, initially portrayed by an adorable puppet, lives a sheltered life. Her mother and father, a neurotic and germaphobe respectively, mistake her heart full of love for one full of sickness, so they keep her inside, sheltered from any human interaction. When she leaves home, Amélie continues to live a quiet life on the outside but lives a loud one in her colourful mind. Inspired by the death of Princess Diana, Amélie tries to improve the lives of those around her through mysterious acts of kindness. However, when love comes her way she realises that she must risk her contentment and isolation if she's to reveal what's in her heart.

Craig Lucas' book is wacky and completely fantastical and allows us to see the world in a childlike way. This show is very different to much of the UK theatre scene right now and  it's lovely to see a story where almost all of the characters are motivated by kindness. Daniel Messé's gloriously French, folk score transports us to a world where positivity reigns, gnomes dance and cognac flows like water.

This flow is continued through Madeleine Girling's set which features two pianos, a photo booth and a metro station. The set morphs from one setting to another, often looking very similar but feeling completely different and evoking just the right atmosphere for each scene. Elliot Griggs' sepia, film lighting creates warmth and intimacy and feels completely natural. It should also be noted that Tom Marshall's sound design is excellent. The perfect amount of reverb makes the cast sound as though they are really wandering the streets of Paris as each line rings out clearly and cleanly.

Audrey Brisson is a complete marvel as the title character. With a sublime voice and a perfectly characterised performance, Brisson is enigmatic and beguiling from start to finish. Danny Mac is suitably aloof but charismatic as Nino and brings swooping vocals which fill the theatre with warmth. This is very much an ensemble piece, with them playing the various characters who impact Amélie's life, as well as bohemian musicians. The tight movement still manages to feel free as the cast whirl and flow around the stage in a very French and dreamy way. Mention must go to Caolan McCarthy as Elton John who gives a hilarious and vocally outstanding performance. Kate Robson-Stuart and Faoileann Cunningham also stand out in their fanciful performances. 

This quirky musical tells a heart-warming tale that's cinematic, intimate and bold all at once. For a wonderful, whimsical, wacky night, take yourself to Amélie Poulain's and see life through her marvellous eyes.

photo credit: Pamela Raith