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Gigi (Tabard Theatre)

The 1956 adaptation returns to the London stage under Mark Giesser's direction

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
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The Lerner and Loewe sanitised stage musical of Colette's story of a young girl being groomed as a courtesan in fin-de-siècle Paris, devised as a sequel to My Fair Lady, was charmingly revived in Regent's Park (with Topol as Maurice Chevalier!) seven summers ago.

So I was intrigued to see if restoring Anita Loos's original 1951 dramatic version - not seen in London since Peter Hall directed (and fell in love with) Leslie Caron in 1955, the same year as he directed Waiting for Godot, would reveal the callous complicity of women in Gigi's "education."

It might even have found a depressing resonance with areas of the sex trade in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, not to mention on our own doorstep. But, at the Tabard, it's not even close to doing this, and you'd be hard pressed to suspect a parallel in Mark Giessor's production, let alone Daisy May's chirrupy performance in the title role.

The difference is, of course, these are wealthy people, and there's no hint of coercion as Gigi's mother, aunt and grandmother line up to tell her to keep her legs together at a dinner table much as they would to hold her knife and fork in the correct manner.

The putative "client," the gormless playboy Gaston (Richard Lynson), is being given the run-around by a girlfriend in Switzerland, but he falls for Gigi - God knows why; these two are not Caron and Louis Jordan, not remotely - and a commercial transaction dissolves in something like love, is it?

And the tiny Tabard stage, size of a sixpence, makes the whole thing look ridiculous bordering on the home-made, though Christopher Hone's design makes the best of a bad job with some flimsy grey panelling and an inset drawing room for auntie with a glittering image of a peacock.

The aunt and grandma are nicely done by Pamela Miles and Prue Clarke, seasoned performers both, with serious credits. But, golly, Zoë Teverson's cocotte-ish mother, flaunting a tuneless soprano more in hope than expectation of success ("Will mama ever sing the Bell Song from Lakmé?" "Not when the public can hear her"), is a bit of a strain; her eyes fizzle and pop right out and bounce off the back wall.

And while John Sears's decorous servant is acceptably smooth, his fellow scene-shifter Sidonie the maid (Zoë Simon) discharges more pouts and winks in two hours than a battery of chorines at the Folies Bergères - which is where I think she imagined she was - in ten minutes. I'm afraid that, on the way home, I got a bit giggly over Gigi.

Gigi runs at the Tabard Theatre until November 21.


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