Candide Review from 1997

Wednesday, 8 October, 1997

You can smell the theatrical authenticity on Waterloo Road which seperates The New Arch from it's very close neighbours, the Old Vic, and the RNT, but it's a bit of a treasure hunt to find it.

The musical play, CANDIDE has had a controversial upbringing despite having Blitzein, Voltaire, Bernstein, Hellman, Sondheim and Hal Prince in it's genes. It will not be to everyone's taste, but only the quick and the privileged will be able to get the few remaining seats, during the short run.

The production itself, by Imperial Opera, is magnificent. My only regret is that as the play developed, the multiplicity of roles left me confused about which performers were still alive - despite having been eradicated during the cornucopia of black humoured conkings out.

I suppose that in a musical which is suggestive of The Threepenny Opera, Around The World In Eighty Days, and The Lord High Executioner - one should expect an abundances of death and indignity, but I can't think of any other play which covers rape and pillage, flogging, hanging, assassination, fatwa, sword-play, burning, stabbing, drowning and other niceties - so charmingly.

The justification for it all is the original Blitzein hypothesis, parodied by Voltaire, and now thankfully discredited, that "all is for the best - in the best of all possible worlds."

Candide (Tom Monk) is a privileged bastard who presumes to notice the attributes of his master's virgin daughter, Cunengonde (Lyanna Iveson), whose social position qualified her for an advantageous marriage. Her open sexual behaviour offends her aristocratic family - who disown them both to set in train a vicious downward spiral of misfortunes. If this is all for the best - I'll take the worst.

Cunengonde has a brother, Maximillian (Gary McLeod) who could make Danny la Rue look like Mister Universe. It is a brilliant role, played brilliantly, by an actor who could pirouette on the top of Mount Everest without thinking he was over the top. Thankfully, he gets his come uppance when his now unprivileged sister decides to do the right thing by Candide.

There are many good roles played well. The Baron (Simon Austin) is the father of his family misfortunes. Votaire and Dr Dangloss (Stuart Muirs) keeps the plot moving forward with amusing and sometimes maniacal passion. Candide's confidente, Old Lady (Georgia Dobson) becomes an increasingly important player, lending hope to apparently overwhelming difficuties. There is an awful lot happening on a sympatheticly designed and effective set, by Emma Baker. Surely, not THE Emma Baker. The challenge of space, movement, complexity and humour is well met by the Director, Simone Vause, and everyone in the audience is closely involved.

Musically, you only have to say Leonard Bernstein to realise the quality. It is strong, and movingly conducted by Anthony Davie, with a fifteen piece orchestra to do the work justice.

Regretfully, if you are a reviewer, the programme does not list the musical pieces seperately. "The Best Of All Possible Worlds" is a memorable song. As is the theme tune for the sentencing of heretics at the Spanish Inquisition "What A Day, What A Day For An Auto-Da-Fe". Real Madrid football team should have such a number to help them win the European Cup.

Without doubt, for me, Lyanna Iveson's singing was the highlight of an enjoyable evening. Her vocal range, power and sensitivity will grace many larger stages than the one at the New Arch Club Theatre, at Waterloo. She has a superb voice.

(John Timperley)

Looking for the best seats...