Theatre Review: Amélie the musical at Exeter Northcott by Julie Baldwyn
Last week our newest contributor JULIE BALDWYN went to see Amelie the musical at Exeter Northcott, but did it live up to the film?
When I found out that there was a Musical Theatre version of Amélie and that it was being performed in Exeter I got très excited. I was mindlessly scrolling through my facebook feed, looking for a shot of joy, like the sad addict that I am and all of a sudden, BOOM there it was! Amélie The Musical is coming to Exeter – Book your tickets now.
Instant excitement. “My friend Amélie is coming to town, how very unexpected, it’s been so long since I’ve seen her… I’d forgotten how much I completely adore her. I miss her, I MUST see her, I cannot wait, oui ouiiii!” I’m pretty sure I did a little happy dance in my kitchen.
But then I started to (over)think… “Well hang on though let’s calm down for a second – it’s not actually *LA* Amélie, not the one I fell in love with 15 years ago anyway, it’s another version of her. What if I’m disappointed. What if I get there and I feel like this Amélie is a total imposter who vaguely looks and sounds like her homonym but who might as well be called Aurélie because they have so little in common? It will make me feel angry, and betrayed somehow…”
Yes, I know, I’m slightly neurotic. At this stage, I feel I should reveal (confess?) that I am in fact French (Bonjour). It gets worse – I’m a Parisian, born and raised. So hopefully now you will better understand my over-reaction. We’re a bit emotional like that, especially when it comes to something as personal as Amélie Poulain – she’s part of our narrative, of our heritage, you see. I was going to name my daughter after her (until I realised everyone else had had the same idea…). What I mean is, you guys have Queenie, we have Amélie. Do not mess with our Ambassador if you don’t want a diplomatic incident on your hands.
The day of the performance came; my apprehensions had settled. I was really looking forward to it. My friend Chloé picked me up and drove us to the Northcott Theatre. We headed straight to the bar and I spent my life savings on a large glass of vin rouge for me and a fluorescent slushy for Chloe. There was a pleasant atmosphere in the foyer, everyone looked happy. We went in to find our seats and take an obligatory pic of our excited faces pre-performance.
I’d never been to the Northcott Theatre, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s beautiful and very comfortable. As soon as we saw the set, we knew it was going to be good. Something about it… The colours, the attention to detail, the quirkiness. I could already feel the soul of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s original universe, transposed onto a theatre stage, in le Devon. It felt odd in a good way. It reminded me of how much the Brits like the French no matter how much they like to pretend that they don’t. (You guys almost had me convinced though when you decided to leave the EU, but anyway, I digress.) That night I felt the Franco-English love in the room as we were all eagerly waiting for the performance to start.
In the opening scene, everything is revealed to us in one song – how crazy, funny, eccentric, colourful, kitch, joyful, profound and thought-triggering this journey is going to be. I truly needn’t have worried. It’s rather different to the film, but it needed to be to make it work, and it really does work.
Audrey Brisson (French-Canadian) is brilliant as Amélie – she’s not trying to be Audrey Tautou, and you very quickly stop comparing the two. She’s her own Amélie, she’s managed to capture her soul, and that’s what’s important: the Parisian waitress trapped in a child-like imaginary world. A character full of layers and contrasts: shy but intimidating, introverted and secretive but always meddling with other people’s lives, lonely and solitary but generous and determined to help others, insecure but also assertive and even self-infatuated at times. There’s a lot of depth to her character. We follow her on her amazing path to adulthood. By the second half, Amélie is not a victim of her childhood anymore, she slowly sets herself free, takes charge of her destiny and in the process finds love with the charming Nino Quincampoix (played by Danny Mac).
I thought the production was wonderful, every performer acted, sang and played a musical instrument and, the English speaking cast members had clearly worked hard on their own versions of a French accent (wink wink). The costumes and decor were a perfect visual interpretation of the exaggerated, nostalgic Parisian fantasy that is an essential part of the Amélie atmosphere. There were puppets (I thought little-girl-Amélie depicted as a puppet, following her grown-up self everywhere was genius and very touching), fantastic songs and choreographies, magical details and a lot of really wacky Anglo-Saxon humour which was a surprising but charming addition!
Chloé and I had a fantastic time. As we were smoking our cigarettes outside after the show, stalking the cast and enthusiastically sharing our thoughts on the performance, we both agreed how constantly engaged we were, completely lost in the performance, transported on a rollercoaster of emotions, and forgetting where we actually were for an evening. Merci Amélie!
Amélie is produced by Hartshorn-Hook,Selladoor Productions, The Watermill Theatre and Broadway Asia Company. Directed by Michael Fentiman. The production is currently on tour, more information here.
About the author: Julie Baldwyn
Julie is a French Exeter resident who grew up in Paris but spent most of her adult life living in England – first in Bath and then in Devon. She is married to a Brit and is a Maman to two 50% French / 50% English / 100% Exonian children.
She enjoys travelling, drinking wine and napping with her Beagle.Tags: amelie, Amelie the musical, Exeter, exeter northcott, French, Theatre, theatre in Exeter