Review: Barnum, Theatre in the Park

The Kite Runner is at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton until Saturday.

REVIEW: The Kite Runner at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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Do we know how lucky we are to have the Chichester Festival Theatre on our doorstep? Well – we are. And once again they’ve come up with the goods.

Barnum, playing in the Theatre in the Park (a tent – but you’d be hard-pushed to realise it!) is one of the slickest, most purely entertaining pieces of theatre I’ve sat through in forty-ish years of theatre-going. It’s bright, it’s fast, it’s inventive, it’s easy on the eye and on the ear. In short, it’s excellent.

Christopher Fitzgerald, as P T Barnum, fizzes, whizzes, ducks and dives his way through the show, rarely leaving the stage, a slick, subtle, huge and astonishing performance matched – beautifully – by Tamsin Carroll as Chairy, Barnum’s wife and muse. Fitzgerald’s high-wire walk at the end of Act 1 is nail-biting stuff – and elation itself when he makes it across.

And what an ensemble! All-singing, all-dancing, acrobats, stepping out of the ensemble to play supporting roles and stepping back in to become a part of the whole. Each and every one shines – but worthy of note are Aretha Ayeh, Jack North (momentarily upstaged by an elephant), Max Parker and Anna O’Byrne.

A must-see.

Until August 31.