'She' in Cheltenham 2016: A Review by Simon Lewis (The Echo)
'SHE' Caamora Theatre Company The Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham 3rd September 2016.
You know you’ve seen something good when you drop everything to go and see it again - and again. Worthy of such sustained attention is She - The Musical which echoed thrillingly round the Playhouse auditorium once more, as Caamora Theatre stopped by with their latest adaptation of Clive Nolan’s east African adventure based on the novel by Henry Rider Haggard. This was my third encounter with Ayesha et al. and, to be honest, I’m not going to zero in on every last production detail that dominated my two previous reviews. Suffice to say that She - Mark III was everything I expected it to be. Under director Ian Baldwin, this mystical rock opera remains a healthy living organism, thoughtfully re-inventing itself, with new scenes, costumes and staging deservedly raising seasoned eyebrows.
The sound system is still giving cause for concern, however. With a pre-recorded backing track stand in for a live band, the eternal curse of excessive volume occasionally threatened to overwhelm proceedings, and not every soloist was fully audible. Mercifully, it didn’t overly detract from another absorbing and visually stunning performance. Even so, I still prefer the original 2012 and highly atmospheric jungle set to the two screens which cleverly doubled as the story’s locations, most of which were displayed as back projections to keep the audience up to speed. There was plenty more to savour, however, as this exotic tale unfolded, led from the front by towers of strength Victoria Bolley and Robbie Gardner in the lead roles. The supporting cast was in equally fine form, displaying particular power when singing as a full ensemble, but it was Alec Morris’ masterful lighting that put the final gloss on this stylish presentation.
For now, though, it’s the end of the touring line for She. There really is more to come, and I await with renewed enthusiasm Nolan’s new musical King’s Ransom, the sequel to Alchemy, and coming to the Playhouse in September 2017. In the meantime, I’ll sit back let the CDs evoke happy memories.