📍 The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB
🗓 Monday 6th February 2023
Last night I went to the Old Vic theatre to catch a preview performance of Sylvia which stars Sharon Rose in the titular role alongside an amazing supporting cast which includes the incredible talent that is Beverley Knight.
This musical charts the story of Women's Suffrage and particularly focuses on the story of Sylvia Pankhurst. I found the story incredible to say the least. Kate Prince and Priya Parmer who wrote the book have really brought these historic characters to life in such a raw way. I learnt more in these 2 hours and 40 minutes than I could ever have hoped to learn in any textbook when I was at school!
Prince, who also wrote the lyrics and was both director and choreographer of the piece, and Parmer have not shied away from the real horrors that these women faced during their fight for justice and I found it truly shocking.
The show is sung throughout with little to no breaks between which means that it is incredibly fast paced. The music by Josh Cohen and DJ Wade is a mix of mainly funk, soul and hip hop and is joyous against the backdrop of harsh storytelling.
On an initial viewing it can be quite difficult to catch all of the lyrics sung because of how quick it is but this didn't really dampen my enjoyment and is only a small negative in an otherwise flawless production. I need a cast recording of this show now!
Production Image: The Pankhurst family
I loved the show in its entirety but for me I found that Act 2 had all the best songs and vocal performances. Suffrajitsu which opened the second Act was energetic, clever and really enjoyable but I think that Stand Up was iconic and will be the song that stays with me. This is performed at a pivotal moment in the story when the law allowing women the vote still excludes four million working class women and is almost a fight song which shows that the movement will continue until every women has equal voting rights with men.
The production values are a star in themselves and the audio visuals by Andrzej Goulding are a triumph. When married together with lighting by Natasha Chivers, set and costume design by Ben Stone, and hair by Cynthia De La Rosa the production elevates even more. For a show that is essentially coloured with a black and white palette with just a splash of red, the show is visually spectacular.
Sharon Rose is absolutely mesmerising as Sylvia Pankhurst. She completely embodies the character and shows real emotion and determination throughout. She has an exceptional singing voice and also has that rare quality of really being able to let the audience into the soul of the character which was extremely powerful to witness. It's hard to pick the standout performance in this show as the level is so high but I think that Rose wins this crown.
Beverley Knight shines in the supporting role of Emmeline Pankhurst. Her characterisation in this role is wonderful. She delivers a dominant performance and I was shocked by how ruthless and unlikeable her character is. Her vocals, as expected, are exceptional and her performance during The Split is breathtaking. I was in awe watching her deliver her trademark powerhouse vocals.
Production Image: Beverley Knight as Emmeline Pankhurst
Jay Perry is triumphant as Winston Churchill. We always remember him as a hero because of WW2, but Churchill was the main barrier to women's rights in the early 20th century and treated them abhorrently. Perry gives an honest and believable performance throughout and delivers outstanding vocals.
Alex Gaumond gives a strong performance as Keir Hardie and Jade Hackett rocks the auditorium in a fantastic performance as Lady Jennie Churchill. Sweeney as Silvio Corio is sweet and sexy in equal measures and arrives in the story just when Sylvia needs him.
Verity Blyth is sweet yet strong as Clementine Churchill and Ellena Vincent as Christabel Pankhurst is great alongside Kirstie Skivington as Adela Pankhurst.
I could honestly write a paragraph about each and every cast member because they were honestly all sensational.
This show is wonderfully gritty from start to finish and I loved every second. I enjoyed the nod to modern day popular culture such as Eminem and the Floss! It is hard-hitting where it needs to be but at the same time has you laughing and the story itself takes the you on an epic journey.
The entire audience were up on their feet at the end of the performance as they erupted into well-deserved applause.
Sylvia is still currently in previews with the official opening night on Tuesday 14th February. The run has already been extended and is now playing at the Old Vic until Saturday 8th April. Head to www.oldvictheatre.com where you can check availability and book tickets for all performances.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being open, honest and free from influence.
The stage is set!
Sharon Rose: Sylvia Pankhurst
Beverley Knight: Emmeline Pankhurst
Ellena Vincent: Christabel Pankhurst
Kirstie Skivington: Adela Pankhurst / Mrs Bird
Alex Gaumond: Keir Hardie
Jay Perry: Winston Churchill / George Lansbury
Verity Blyth: Clementine Churchill / Mrs Scurr / Kitty
Jade Hackett: Lady Jennie Churchill / Mrs Payne / Edith Garrud
Kelly Agbowu: Mrs Flora 'The General' Drummond / Mrs Savoy
Stevie Hutchinson: Lloyd George / Lord Curzon
Bradley Charles: Lord Cromer / Richard Pankhurst / Alan
Razak Osman: Harry Pankhurst / Sir Almroth Wright / Asquith
Sweeney: Silvo Corio
Kimmy Edwards: Emily Davison / Lillie Hardie / Mrs Watkins
Kate Ivory Jordan: Annie Kenney / Norah Smyth
Kandaka Moore: Mrs Parsons / Sophia Singh
Jaye Marshall: Ensemble / Swing
Sinead Long: Ensemble / Swing
Malachi Welch: Ensemble / Swing
Antoine Murray-Straughan: Ensemble / Swing
2 hours 40 minutes including an interval
The Old Vic is a 1,000 seat, not-for-profit producing theatre in Waterloo, London.