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Yarico (London Theatre Workshop)

A talented cast perform a raw tale of love, loyalty and language

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Liberty Buckland as Yarico
© Daisy Honeybunn

In 1998 producer John Kidd commissioned a musical based on the 18th century opera Inkle and Yarico for the annual Holders Opera Season held at his Barbadian plantation. Eighteen years and eight books later that story, partially set aboard a ship called The Providence, has completed its Atlantic crossing and moored at the London Theatre Workshop.

As far as story structures go, Yarico - first recorded by Richard Ligon in 1657 in his book A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados - is a rare one; boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy marries girl, boy sells girl into slavery.

Thrown overboard for gambling debts, Inkle (Alex Spinney) finds himself washed ashore on an unknown island. Threatened with certain death by the island's 'savages' his only hope lies with ambitious Amerindian Yarico (Liberty Buckland), whose love of Shakespeare means she's the only islander who understands the language of the 'ghostpeople'. The pair fall in love and plan to return to London until Inkle's gambling changes their course forever.

Yarico is by no means a finished product and the show's producers John and supermodel daughter Jodie Kidd have openly admitted this. At times the book is clunky and there are a few superfluous numbers, especially in the first half; the second is much slicker, songs including "Give Me My Name" and "Spirit Eternal" are rousing, well written compositions.

But this show's crowning glory is its tremendously talented cast. Spinney and Buckland, both graduates of the Royal Academy of Music, stomp through the show's score - which is a hodgepodge of genres from Calypso to Carribean Sea Shanty and even the distinctly Disneyesque "The Things We Carry With Us" - with aplomb. Standing out in the outstanding ensemble is Tori Allen-Martin, gifted with impeccable comic timing and a stage presence that makes it hard to take your eyes off her.

It's a heavily physical piece - hard to accomplish in such a small space made smaller by a four-piece band complete with massive marimba - laden with gestures and symbolism, exacted by director Emily Gray whose experience as artistic director of mask and physical theatre company Trestle is put to good use.

Yarico may not be polished and the venue may be too small for this oceanic tale, but it's exciting and well worth catching to see raw talent performing a red raw tale of love, loyalty and language.

Yarico runs at the London Theatre Workshop until 14 March. Click here for more information and to book tickets.