Monday, 2 May 2016

Mary Poppins

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

When Mary Poppins soars over the heads of the audience at the end of Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne's musical staging of P.L. Travers' stories, the strings may be visible beyond the brolley, but the New Age mantra of 'Anything can happen if you want it to' uttered by this most radical of nannies makes perfect sense. As soon as Zizi Strallen's Mary beamed down into the upmarket town house where the nanny-baiting Banks children, Michael and Jane, were rebelling against the regimented routines implemented by their banker father George and ex actress mother Winifred, after all, an entire culture of hand-me-down repression was doomed. .

Once Mary hooks up with chimney sweeping street artist Bert, by way of a series of wonderful set-pieces led by Bourne's choreography, the park becomes a psychedelic wonderland where statues come to life and a sweetshop more resembles an underground shebeen. This exposes Michael and Jane to a magical state of play, while even George finds his buttoned-up company man persona honed in a Kafkaesque mausoleum give way to outbursts of ethical capitalism once he falls under Mary's spell and rediscovers his child within.

Everything about this co-production between the Disney organisation and the show's co-creator Cameron Mackintosh is a marvel. Julian Fellowes' cheekily counter-cultural book is delivered with the same unfettered gusto as Richard M and Robert B Sherman's original songs, accompanied by new material by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Strallen invests Mary with a winking coquettishness, while Matt Lee as Bert leads massed constructivist chimney sweeps across the rooftops with fearless glee in a show that relishes in the unabashed transcendent power of play.

The Herald, May 3rd 2016
 

ends

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