This hidden gem is tucked away in Walthamstow presenting an evening of Italian indulgence - a revival of the Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit musical inspired by Frederico Fellini’s autobiographical film 8½.
The story centres on film director Guido Contini, who faces a creative crisis whilst struggling with his obsession with the women in his life. The show beautifully and simply examines the professional creative struggle and seeks to explain how these women gnaw at his soul through a series of flash-backs.
Simplicity is the key to the success of this production with a black backcloth, stylish monochrome costumes and a set with the ten-piece orchestra set around the stage in a horseshoe. A grand piano is centre stage and is cleverly utilised as a revolve and a platform.
The ensemble cast handle the often challenging music extremely well. Alvaro Flores, as Guido Contini, the lone male on stage, personifies the troubled film director. He loves Luisa his wife, yet is drawn to any woman who pays him attention, due to his obsession fuelled by an early-life encounter with the siren Saraghina. His performance grows in stature and the culmination of his confusion and loneliness is handled impressively for such a young performer.
Marcia Brown as Luisa subtly portrays an emotionally brittle wife who is trying to be loyal to her wayward husband but knows that their marriage is ultimately doomed. She brings anguish and heartache to her rendition of “Be on your own” as she walks out on her philandering husband. The seduction of the nine-year-old Guido by Claire Daly as Saraghina is delicately executed. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the tour-de-force “A call from the Vatican”, where Jemma Thomas as Carla deliciously drapes herself over the piano singing “who’s not wearing any clothes…?”
Whilst strong, it 's not perfect. The orchestra, confined to such a small space, at times overpowers the singers making the lyrics hard to discern, and the direction for La Fleurs' song verges on drag queenish rather then Folie Bergère. But all told this revival deserves an outing in a larger London stage – a definite Nine out of Ten!