Delving into the entertaining depths of undersung queer historic figures, new musical La Maupin proves to be a rip-roaring success on the Lion & Unicorn Theatre
“If anybody mentions cassoulet once more, I’ll disembowel them with my toasting fork”
While the Comte de Limoges would possibly disagree, any present that mentions the deliciousness that’s cassoulet is a winner in my guide. It simply so occurs that Unbelievable Garlands’ new present La Maupin is fairly darn incredible in and of itself as nicely. Posited as a folk-punk musical, it tells the story of the raucous life and riotous occasions of Julie D’Aubigny – a nun-smuggling, sword-fighting, opera-singing LGBTQ+ icon-in-the-making who, predictably, historical past has chosen to neglect. A multi-roling, multi-instrumenting firm of 5 take us the size and breadth of 18th century France as her very personal Javert-eque nemesis (mentioned Comte) pursues her and all of the whereas, an outrageously toe-tappingly tuneful set of songs set up this as a wonderfully realised piece of musical theatre.
With a lot derring-do to pack in, the present – written by Olivia Thompson – is much less a historical past lesson and extra a private odyssey of a outstanding determine decided to do issues her personal means, whatever the price. And as she battles towards any variety of institution figures, feckless guardians, drunken aristos, stuffy theatre managers, gropy tenors, there’s this unerring feeling of authenticity to her each motion as she continually rolls with the punches in an especially unpredictable life. It’s thrilling to look at – this swashbuckling with function – and London theatre debutant Frida Rødbroe is magnetic within the function, ferociously uncompromising however sufficient of a glint of their eye to make one suppose it could be well worth the heartbreak to simply throw your lot in with them too.
A big a part of that additionally comes with the gloriously genial rating. There’s a cracking sense of musical identification at work right here, leaning into folk-inspired melodies that sound like they’ve been sung in Irish pubs for many years and so typically leaving you wanting to listen to them once more as quickly as they’re finished. The string-heavy instrumentation permits for easy switches from jaunty to tear-jerking, accordions, flutes, kazoos and one thing I didn’t recognise however cherished add factors of curiosity, counterpoint drives us to an exhilarating Act 1 climax, harmonies give goosebumps on the tender finish, there’s even Brandi Carlile influences on the chic letter to a misplaced love ‘Golden Lady’. The final scores I felt this enthused by had been Hadestown and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button they usually had been each high reveals of their respective years.
Thompson’s writing additionally does a superb job in chatting with the second with a skilfully mild however nonetheless thought of contact. A superbly written passage sees La Maupin rail towards societal norms and assert her proper to determine what identify she is going to use. One other reminds us – as if it had been crucial – that the Me Too motion has been wanted within the arts business for hundreds of years now. And there’s a (presumably coincidental) tip of the chapeau to the Bury Your Gays trope which factors out that generally, homosexual individuals just do die. Suzy Catliff’s course additionally brims with invention and innovation. Switching the already intimate auditorium into the spherical creates a splendidly convivial environment that feels so inclusive, the way in which duels are depicted is pleasant, the general sense of play facilitated by Robin Soutar’s design works a deal with.
And he or she’s gathered a superb firm round Rødbroe. Olivia Warren, Megan Armitage, Katrina Michaels and Thompson herself kind an distinctive ensemble, flowing out and in of supporting roles and their tangled, diverse emotional connections to La Maupin, enjoying a number of devices with actual ability, and in addition dealing with the proximity to the viewers nicely. It could actually generally be a little bit disconcerting to be so near performers however the heat right here, that inclusivity is so freely provided that it’s unattainable to withstand the amour fou of La Maupin. I’ve already booked to go once more and also you’d be clever to guide as nicely. If I’ve something to do with it (and even when I don’t), I strongly suspect that is removed from the final we’ll hear of this incredible new British musical.