THEATRE REVIEW: The Scarlet Pimpernel ★★★

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Jenny Wren Productions
Summer UK Tour 2019

If you are unfamiliar with the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel, rest assured you are properly not the only one. Originally written as a play in 1903 before published as a book in 1905 by Baroness Orczy,  and later adapted for film, most notably the 1934 and '82 versions, Jenny Wren's latest venture into outdoor theatre, which has seen her running the fort for 16 years, is a striking and peculiar one with a long-winded tale of the mysterious crusade.

Touring throughout the Summer, Jenny has adapted and entrusted the story upon five local actors in the area to bring the story to life, for which the most part is entirely true; Gregory Aston, Kieran Capaldi, and Megan Lewis are enchanting and artfully skilled in their plethora of characters in which they embody with such ease, keeping the audience entertained through a range of accents and masterful disguises, with the help from Charmaine Gifford-James' colourful costume designs which gives each main character a distinctive scheme for which makes them recognisable and memorable.

Stephanie Louise gives Marguerite a remarkable performance with a French accent to match that she keeps up with true conviction, who properly trained in languages as a student, whilst her lover and main protagonist Sir Precy Blakeney is played with such vocal range from Ciaran Walshe, taking reign of the stage whenever we witness his presence; his portrayal of the Scottish Benjamin Rosenbaum is hilarious and lets him be more physically comedic to his otherwise strong and stable protagonist before.

The struggles that come with outdoor theatre is being able to engage the audience with a vocal demand as well as continuing to capture the essence of the character in which you are portraying; Moya Matthews features in the cast with a variety of accents and characters, though with little differentiation and not as vocally powerful as her peers. As the latter half draws to a close, it's no surprise that Pimpernel is so quietly known about; the plays final act draws to a anticlimactic end with Percy retelling a certain tale to Marguerite, before once again a song written and composed by Capaldi, a man with clearly many talents, brings the evenings proceedings to a close, with the inclusion of the audience singing along as the chorus. Some clever props are used throughout, but sadly does not allow the whole audience to feel a part of the venture.

Overall, Jenny Wrens company of merry actors struggles at times to keep this 18th century tale alive, but certainly tries it's best with the remarkable talents from Aston, Capaldi, and Lewis. The story is certainly suited for all ages with the added elements of humour and song, and do also be sure to bring a camping chair if required as the legacy of Jenny Wren Productions clearly shows that she has avid following all across the county and will be guaranteed to sell out!


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