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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: THE ARTIST @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 The Artist

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Monday 20th May 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A WONDERFULLY CREATIVE VISUAL DELIGHT


Adapted from the hugely successful 2011 movie of the same name, THE ARTIST is currently having its World Premiere at Theatre Royal Plymouth and I was privileged to have been invited to attend the Gala Performance last night.


The show begins suitably silently and immediately hooks the audience who are easily drawn along with the charming story. Pursuing a similar storyline to the movie, we follow George Valentin (Robbie Fairchild) a silent movie star who struggles to adapt when talkies take off. The story follows his downward spiral and unlikely affinity with up and coming star of the talkies Peppy Millar (Briana Craig).


The production is visually pleasing from the offset, framed by a beautiful art deco proscenium arch with a simple yet stylish set that grants freedom of movement on the stage and allows the fantastically placed title cards to be prominent and clear.


Drew McOnie's divine direction and choreography give a masterclass in storytelling without dialogue and there is a clear meaning in every movement. Peppy's dance outside the movie theatre is beautifully understated, as much of the production is. Married with the sublimely simple lighting design the entire production is somewhat transcendent.

I was intrigued to see how this part silent part talkie movie would translate onto the stage and it is evident that the creative team have really thought through how they will accomplish their adaptation. For the most part, the coming together of theatre and film throughout works gloriously well and I especially like the strict black and white theme throughout.


What was unfortunately missing for me was any sense of emotional connection to the characters. This was perhaps because we spend our time reading the dialogue projections rather than fully engaging with the performers. Although visually pleasing and done extremely well, this does somewhat disassociate us with the characters meaning I didn't really care about them as much as I maybe should have. Obviously in the silent movies we had close ups of actors faces and then the words would be shown, but translating this to a theatrical production it somehow loses its whimsy and humanity.


However there is no taking away from how much I enjoyed the performance and the incredible talent on the stage. Briana Craig was engaging and gave us a slightly less fluffy version of Peppy than expected. Robbie Fairchild was suave and stubborn as George and had gloriously graceful moves and exceptional stage presence, commanding the audiences eye.


For me personally the standout performance came from Tiffany Graves as news reporter Gertie Gams. She really came into her own once speech had been introduced. With the line "It's good to hear me isn't it?" she sent flutters through the hearts of all musical theatre fans! I loved how sassy she was and how she seemed to flirt with the audience.


Rachel Muldoon as Constance and Ebony Molina as Doris Valentin are both captivating and Thomas Walton is fantastically dynamic as he operates the puppet of George's furry sidekick Uggie. Theatre stalwart Gary Wilmot gave a tenacious performance as movie director Al Zimmer.

The relationship between George and Peppy unfortunately lacks any fierce chemistry and is one more of friendship than anything else, but what THE ARTIST lacks in deep connections it more than makes up for in production values. The creatives behind this piece have delivered a more than adequate adaptation of this multi award-winning movie, with the real star of the show being the dancing.


I was reminded of shows such as 42nd Street and Singin' in the Rain at various points throughout so fans of the classics will love this production. I have absolutely no doubt that THE ARTIST will go on to be a commercial success and predict prosperous runs in both the West End and on Broadway.


This visually stunning production more than deserved its standing ovation last night and despite a few reservations, I would return and watch it again in a heartbeat.


If you don't want to miss out on the World Premiere of THE ARTIST then there's not long to secure your tickets. The show is playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 25th May. Click here for tickets.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer. 


My ticket for this performance of The Artist was gifted by the Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.

FULL CAST LIST:

Robbie Fairchild as George Valentin; Briana Craig as Peppy Miller; Gary Wilmot as Al Zimmer; Rachel Muldoon as Constance; Ebony Molina as Doris Valentin; Tiffany Graves as Gertie Gams; Alexander Bean as Clifton; Thomas Walton as Uggie; Matthew Caputo as Ensemble / Boyfriend; Daisy West as Ensemble / Fluffy; Mark Samaras as Ensemble; Will Bozier as Ensemble; Lily Laight as Ensemble; Deja Linton as Ensemble; Tyler Lotzof as Ensemble; Louis Mackrodt as Ensemble; Tim Hodges as Swing: Shayna McPherson as Swing; Nicole Alphonce as Offstage Swing; Lukas Hunt as Offstage Swing / Dance Captain


BAND:

Isaac McCullough - Musical Director / Piano; Matt Herbert - Assistant Musical Director / Music Preparation; Shane Forbes - Drums and Percussion; Claire Shaw - Clarinet / Bass Clarinet / Alto Saxophone


CREATIVES:

Lindsey Ferrentino and Drew McOnie - Co-Adaptors; Drew McOnie - Director / Choreographer; Simon Hale - Composer (Original Music); Christopher Oram - Set / Costume Designer; Simon Baker - Sound Designer; Ash J Woodward - Video Designer; Simon Hale - Music Superviser / Arranger / Orchestrator; Georgia Nosal - Wigs / Hair / Makeup Designer; Maia Kirkman-Richards - Puppetry Designer


RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 45 minutes, with no interval


CONTENT WARNINGS:

References to suicide; Firearm imagery; Tobacco depiction

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions.

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