Saturday, 16 July 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Nineteen

Mary Poppins, Theatre Royal Norwich. July 2016.

Back from Greece for less than 24 hours and straight away I'm at the theatre - nice to see nothing changes!

Mary Poppins was a show that I'd dithered over for a while before biting the bullet and buying the (for Norwich) quite expensive tickets.  As a child I'd never watched the film and when Mr Norfolkbookworm and I sat down to watch it a couple of years ago I remember not being that impressed and only half watching it. However I am intrigued by P L Travers herself, especially in the light of her book about child evacuees to America during WW2 and the Saving Mr Banks film.

Reading the programme before going in raised my hopes more as we saw that the choreographer for the show was none other than Matthew Bourne.  I'm pleased to say that after watching this I no longer have the aversion to Poppins that I had before.

Although not being that familiar with the source film I could see that there were major differences but I liked this re-imagining. It wasn't as saccharine sweet as the film and it certainly wasn't as politically insensitive, Mrs Banks is no longer an absent parent figure but rather a woman struggling with the realities of life - she was an actress and is now trying to be a good/respectable upper-middle class wife.

Mary Poppins herself was also portrayed better for me, she is more human, less perfect and more "practically perfect!" The children were delightfully naughty, not just neglected and Bert nailed the role.  I'm not sure the addition of the 'bad character' was needed as she just became a little pantomime rather than real.

The fantasy scenes had been changed hugely - no dancing penguins, merry-go-rounds or tea parties on the ceiling. What replaced them were beautifully choreographed dance scenes lit to be totally Technicolor and visually stunning, with incredibly strong vocals.

The show wasn't perfect, I thought it was a little long and that it finished in the wrong place - there was a much  more obvious stop point for me...but on the whole it was a great night out.

Interestingly the creative team behind the reworking of this classic have just finished a new version of Half a Sixpence at Chichester which we are off to see next month - I think I will break my rules and watch the film version of this before going so I can compare it again to the new staging.

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