There is something of a fairytale feel to Amelie – The Musical.
Based upon the film of the same name, Amelia delves into the life of a shy waitress, the titular character, as she endeavours to turn her own sense of isolation into something wonderful for others. In many ways, it’s a story that we can all relate to, that sense of being alone, but being surrounded by friends, without even knowing it.
Audrey Brisson brings a superb child-like innocence to the part of Amelie. Her diminutive stature makes her an instantly likeable character, coupled with a naivety and superb singing voice.
Through a superb piece of puppetry (which, if you were short-sighted and without glasses, you could believe was a real child), we encounter a young Amelie and her parents. Her father diagnoses her as having a heart problem, and so she is kept in isolation from others to prevent her from becoming too excited.
We fast forward, and discover the fate of Amelie’s mother (squashed by a falling gentleman), and her ashes are then placed within a garden gnome. Which Amelie’s father hates.
Yes, this is a tale with darkly comic undertones. It’s definitely more Grimm than grim.
Amelia works by day, has her work friends in the Parisien cafe in which she works, but returns home at night, to inhabit her own dreamworld. Set at the time of Princess Diana’s death, she watches television and dreams that everyone remembers her as being a princess of hearts. There is a superb Elton John pastiche, mimicking Candle In The Wind, but with Amelie at its heart.
Of course, as with all fairytales, our princess must find her prince, which Amelie does. She has a chance encounter with Nino, another outsider, who goes around the photobooths of Paris, where he finds a picture of the same man, but always torn up. He has collected these into an album, and strives to solve the mystery of who this man is.
When he leaves his album behind, Amelie locates it, and returns it to him, leaving clues for him to follow to find her. But her in-built shyness is the biggest problem of all.
The rest of the cast are first class. Accompanied by their musical instruments which they move around the stage, they bring Amelie’s world to vivid life, playing, acting and singing with skill. It’s an experience in its own right, to watch these masters of their craft at work.
The set design is very clever, as the setting is unmistakably Paris. The multi-purpose cabinet which slides out is, in turn, a photobooth, a confession box, a rooftop, a front door, amongst several uses, and the lighting effectively conveys day, night and the Metro.
Amelie’s own flat is accessed by her holding onto a lampshade, which raises Brisson into the air, and she enters via the window – it’s wonderfully realised.
Amelia – The Musical is a surreal experience. Not having seen the film, it took a short while to understand and enter this self-contained world, with a distinctive French sense of humour to it all (a giant, singing garden gnome, anyone? Or a fish that sings goodbye to Amelie as it is allowed to escape?). It’s very much a feel good production – we all could do with a little Amelie in our lives. Tres bon!
For tickets and performance times, click HERE.