Theatre review: Carousel at Arcola Theatre

in carousel at the arcola

in carousel at the arcola - Credit: Archant

This is the revival of what is perhaps the most famous Rogers and Hammerstein classic musical, brought to the intimate surroundings of the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. Songs like You’ll Never Walk Alone are already etched in the history of musical theatre, and of course, of Liverpool Football Club.

Now Morphic Graffiti have given new zest to the play in their interpretation of the sometimes achingly sad but ultimately heart-lifting story.

A musical adaptation of the Hungarian play Liliom, it is the story of a tumultuous relationship between a young maid and a cocky fairground barker. Mill worker Julie Jordan (Gemma Sutton) falls for the masculine charms of Billy Bigelow (Tim Rogers). But the life of these two lovers is jeopardized both by Bigelow’s increasingly violent nature and by the ill-advised hold-up organised by Bigelow’s ne’er do well friend Jigger Craigin (played by the fantastic Richard Kent).

Director Luke Fredericks has made the bold decision to switch update the setting from the 1870s to the tough and desperate times just after the Great Depression. This means that the stage is set perfectly for the story of recklessness, regret and redemption.

Despite the unsympathetic nature of the roguish Bigelow, you find yourself understanding his lot and his propulsion towards a destiny he is powerless to control. Meanwhile the character of Julie is portrayed with calm and is quietly heart-rending.

Absorbing performances from all the actors bring across the fiery relationships of the characters seemingly unable to escape their fate. And the spit and sawdust environment of the Arcola brings extra poignancy to the tale, the bleak set designed by Stewart Charlesworth working perfectly as the backdrop for this often disturbing tale.

Meanwhile Andrew Corcoran’s five-piece band is simply electric, producing a whirlwind of sound and excitement.

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This is a beautifully human story that all of us can relate to. Recommended.

Rating: Five stars

Until July 19.