Charring Cross Theatre (venue)
12 April 2022 (released)
13 April 2022
The story of Zorro starring Guy Williams in Disney’s original black and white tv production is still fresh in my mind. The swashbuckling action hero was a childhood champion and I hoped this latest stage reincarnation would be set to entice a new (and old) generation with his antics.
Tonight the small but perfectly formed Charring Cross Theatre is split in two, with audience members seated on opposite sides of the small flat stage. Mud coloured pueblo walled buildings, rise to the right and left.
We start in the Californian heat, with young siblings whose futures are forever changed by their fathers will. The younger brother is being sent to Spain to study before taking over the family business, while the dejected older brother is ushered into the military.
Jump to 1805, the pueblo is now under the savage rule of Ramon (Alex Gibson-Giorgio), the older brother. In the intervening 10 years the younger brother, Diego (Benjamin Purkiss), has become king of the Gypsies in Spain and is soon approached by childhood friend Luisa (Paige Fenlon) to return to LA and resolve the desperate situation.
Queen of the Gypsies is Inez (Phoebe Panaretos) convinces the gypsy clan to accompany Diego on a perilous boat journey back to the pueblo where Zorro is born, in an attempt to oust the power-mad Ramon.
The cast is plentiful, with actor-musicians playing guitars, fiddles and incredible female led trumpets which cut through a vibrant soundscape with voices resounding from every corner. Strong women are at the heart of this production, and the gypsy scenes are as colourful as they are loud. Flamenco swagger accompanies Gipsy Kings original music reworded to an original story by Helen Edmundson (Small Island) and lyricist Stephen Clark (Martin Guerre).
The storyline can seem a little clunky at times but the storyteller (Pete Ashmore) guides us through. Bamboleo strikes the biggest chord in Act One setting pulses racing with snappy swordplay, castanets and Inez in blazing vocal form. The simple stage set up works well with choreography, sound and lighting immersing the audience.
Sergeant Garcia (Marc Pickering) falls for the sultry Inez and is perfectly cast to play the hapless comic sidekick to the evil brother Ramon. Of course, El Zorro is also at the centre of a love triangle with Ines and Luisa, the latter of which join for an emotional duet in Act Two.
Fighting for justice and freedom Zorro will take you on a journey of sights, sounds and rhythmic relish.
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Photo credit: Pamela Raith