Off West End Review

Side Show – Southwark Playhouse


Roll up! Roll up! To see the freakishly talented Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford in Bill Russell and Henry Krieger’s Side Show. It’s a unique musical about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, paraded as a star attraction in a ‘freak show’ in the height of 1930s vaudeville.

Two talent spotters snap them up for the Orpheum Circuit, and whisk them way from their cruel show master for a life truly thrust into the limelight. It’s a fascinating tale, heart-breaking and moving as it explores both the struggles of fame and fortune and of identity and loving who we really are.

Dearman and Pitt-Pulford dazzle as the twins who despite sharing a side, are very different in character. Whilst Daisy longs for the bright lights, Violet dreams of a normal life with the man she loves. Ultimately it’s their love for each other that will allow them to compromise their dreams and go on together.

 side show

It’s a show that has me in two minds. The second act certainly excelled the first, as the story felt a little lacking in initial energy. It certainly vamped up with ‘Stuck With You’ and ‘Private Conversation’, injected with Matthew Cole’s terrific choreography. Also with regards the songs, some are beautifully heartfelt and stirring, especially the final ‘I Will Never Leave You’ yet others were fairly forgettable.

But without question, the voices in Hannah Chissick’s production are undeniably good. As two musical sensations, Dearman and Pitt-Pulford’s voices soar with Krieger’s gorgeous melodies and they are mesmerising to watch. I couldn’t imagine two stars better suited to play the sisters than Dearman and Pitt-Pulford. Equally, talent spotters Dominic Hodson and Haydn Oakley and also Jay Marsh as Jake are in fine voice.

Takis’ design transforms the Southwark Playhouse into a magical, twinkling fairground with a wash of circus lights and brassy details. It’s gorgeously vaudeville, enhanced by the talented jazz band led by Jo Cichonska, that really brings the roaring twenties and thirties to life.

Side Show has some perfectly-pitched moments. A unique and intriguing story.

Side Show runs until 3rd December at the Southwark Playhouse.  

(Photo courtesy of Pamela Raith)

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