La Strada is based on the Oscar-winning 1954 film of the same name by Federico Fellini. It tells the tale of a sweet yet naive girl, Gelsomina, whose poverty-stricken mother accepts cash in exchange for her daughter from a travelling strongman, Zampano.
Gelsomina accompanies Zampano acting as his assistant, announcing his act and collecting money.
Zampano is disconnected and cruel, often neglecting and mistreating his assistant. Early on we are eased into a false sense of hope as we watch Zampano take Gelsomina into a local bar where there is music, dancing and laughter. Gelsomina is allowed to order two dinners, and for the first time is seemly being treated well in reward for her hard work. This all changes quite abruptly as Zampano gets more and more drunk and later takes the singer from the bar home with him; leaving poor Gelsomina alone on the streets all night.
After joining a travelling circus they meet The Fool, a circus clown portrayed brilliantly by Bart Soroczynski. Zampano and the clown clearly have a history as the clown taunts him, and things take a turn for the worse.
The production takes place against a simple grey backdrop with silhouettes of hanging chains and ropes. Two telegraph poles stand tall either side of the stage which not only adds dimension but also creates beautiful shadows.
The visual poetry is easily one of my favourite things about this production; red petals fall from an umbrella high in the sky, buckets of water flung in slow motion to echo Gelsomina’s love of the sea. Overall very very impressive!
As well as the three main characters, La strada boasts an impressive ensemble, whom work beautifully together; Echoing Gelsomina’s thoughts and feelings.
Audrey Brisson is a superb Gelsomina. She perfectly captures the character’s curiosity, kindness and self-deprecating nature that makes us as an audience warm to her. Her gentle singing of the same tune that is repeated throughout the production is both charming and woeful all wrapped into one.
Stuart Goodwin is suitably scary and ridiculously masculine as Zampano. Although, I couldn’t help but feel for him too, despite his abusive and drunken tendencies. I felt as though the audience was meant to have mixed feelings about his character and how he may just be deeply misunderstood.
The tragic conclusion of Gelsomina’s tale is spine-tingling. My eyes were filled with tears and goosebumps covered my arms. Under Sally Cookson’s great direction La Strada is a beautiful, mesmerising and poetic piece of theatre.
If you haven’t already, go and book tickets!