A 4.30pm start meant we were able to spend plenty of time sunning ourselves in the spacious beer garden, surrounded by Clapham’s finest twenty-somethings drinking cider and smoking Marlboro lights in the breaks from the rugby, while we enjoyed a couple of vodka and tonics. Unsurprisingly, we were pleasantly receptive by the time we ambled upstairs and the 5 piece band struck up the overture.
Mike Christie takes the lead as Flaminio and we follow the trials and tribulations as his company finds new members and makes an ill-fated journey to entertain the French royal family. Love blossoms, friendships are formed and enemies are made, all under the watchful eye of Peter Straker’s sanguine Pantalone. Christie plays Flaminio as a slightly deranged control freak and makes a very impressive debut in his first musical theatre production. Jodie Beth Meyer as the dwarf Armanda that Flaminio discovered scrubbing church steps has a great innuendo laden comedy number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On musical, containing as it does a whole list of bawdy double entendres centred on learning to play a wind instrument. The whole cast are terrific and it seems churlish to single out individual performances, but two young actors really struck a chord. Kate Brennan as Columbina is perfect as the world-weary former courtesan whose hardened heart still has the capacity to be broken and her second act number outlining a life of unrealised dreams, My Body Wasn’t Why, had me in tears. Similarly, Christopher Berry’s Francesco, plucked from the street by Flaminio and falling in love with Anouska Eaton’s angel voiced noble woman Isabella, is a totally charming triple threat of a performer with a gorgeous voice.
As the story continues, time catches up with Flaminio and he finds it difficult to accept that he is no longer able to play the romantic lead and that the entertainment he lovingly champions is considered unfashionable and vulgar, as plays with pre-authored scripts are rapidly replacing the improvised “truth” he so adores. However, a finale coda linking the heavenly commedia dell’arte players to modern masters of comedy, including Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball and the Marx brothers amongst others, is a beautiful touch and illustrates the direct line from the 17th century to contemporary performers.
The Landor consistently boxes well above its weight for what is after all a small room above a pub, but they have done it once again, not only in the performances by the cast and band but also in all other aspects of the production, as the set, costumes and lighting are all tremendous. Director Robert McWhir marshals his seven strong cast with such conviction that several times I was totally transported to 17th century Italy and was shocked to find myself suddenly jolted back to 2012, but maybe that had a little to do with the additional interval vodka and tonic.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we went downstairs and England had beaten France 24-22. A more perfect day I can’t remember.
Booking until 7 April 2012, simply glorious (you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) - The Glorious Ones