Ahead of a London run at The Other Palace this summer La Strada embarks on a small UK tour with the Lowry being one of the lucky theatres to host this magical production.
Based on the 1954 Oscar-winning film by Federico Fellini, La Strada is the story of young Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) who is sold by her struggling mother to travelling strongman Zampano (Stuart Goodwin), she is to be his assistant, a post previously held by her sister Rosa who Zampano mysteriously tells us ‘Didn’t survive the winter’.
Naïve Gelsomina is instructed to beat a drum and announce Zampano’s arrival whilst under constant and real the threat of being beaten until she gets it right. Out of loyalty to her family and with a mission to understand what really did happen to her older sister Rosa, Gelsomina obeys, follows instructions and accompanies the bullish Zampano on his travels across Italy.
Zampano frequently abandons Gelsomina overnight as he enjoys the hospitality of local women and more than a few jugs of wine. He is brutish and cruel yet she remains loyal and strives to please him. Things change when they join a travelling circus and Gelsomina meets Il Matto, The Fool (Bart Soroczynski) who has a long history of pressing Zampano’s buttons and pushing him just that bit too far.
The Fool opens Gelsomina’s eyes to the fact that life is for living and that everything living and breathing has a purpose, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Through their meeting we see Gelsomina find her inner strength and the courage to take back her life.
Audrey Brisson is superb as Gelsomina. She perfectly embodies the shy and awkward young girl, is captivating and engages the audience from her first moments on stage. Her whole body is used to create this beautiful and frightened character and you believe her entirely and are desperate for her to succeed and to fly. Her development throughout the piece is a joy to watch, as her confidence grows and she starts to believe she matters and truly has a purpose in life.
In contrast Stuart Goodwin’s Zampano is vulgar and unfeeling; he delivers the role of the yobbish strongman so convincingly you find yourself desperate for him to get his comeuppance.
Bart Soroczynski is a delight in the role of The Fool, with superb circus skills he is utterly captivating. He is weary of being a clown yet if not a clown what else would he be? He finds humour in the irony of his life and pokes fun at not just himself but all around him. He sees humour where there is none, making you feel that for The Fool, life has become a tragic cycle of painting a smile on his face yet inside his heart aches.
La Strada was devised by the entire company within the rehearsal rooms, with a guide on where they wanted the story to go. Collectively the entire company worked together to decide how this piece got there, creating with it a real unity amongst themselves.
It is a beautifully dynamic and wholly enchanting piece of theatre; further evidence of just how thrilling and forward-thinking Director Sally Cookson’s work is. The piece is enthralling and utterly captivating, with an ensemble cast who move together so effortlessly it is at times as if they are as one.
The talent of the actor-musicians on stage outstanding. Cookson’s superb direction allows for her cast to really deliver the most perfect of productions. Katie Sykes’ stripped back set allows scenes to flow effortlessly into one another, while the cast use every inch of the stage in this physical and multi-layered production.
La Strada is a delight, Cookson’s storytelling so rich that I literally didn’t want this production to end; it is a work of real beauty, full of heart, a true theatre gem.
On at the Lowry until Saturday https://www.thelowry.com/events/la-strada
The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ
0843 208 6000