REVIEW: Caroline, Or Change at Chichester Festival Theatre

Olivier Award winner Sharon D Clarke stars in Caroline, Or Change
Olivier Award winner Sharon D Clarke stars in Caroline, Or Change
Have your say

From Sam Cooke’s iconic civil rights anthem A Change Is Gonna Come to Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech, the notion of change was both a wish and a reality for African Americans in the 1960s.

And this musical, written with the benefit of 30 years’ hindsight, is a hopeful yet pragmatic look at what change means for one Louisianan housemaid, dangling off the edge of her monotonous existence. The question is, will she be pushed or will she jump?

As the titular protagonist, Olivier Award-winner Sharon D Clarke has holy water flowing through her veins. Her performance of Lot’s Wife, Caroline’s crossroads moment, took us to church – in fact, it took us first class to the Cistine Chapel and back via Notre Dame and St Paul’s.

While it is soulful and political, the musical also has its fair share of whimsy. Household objects are given the Beauty and the Beast treatment, such as a radio transforming into a Supremes-esque Greek chorus with some cracking pipes.

In fact, there’s not a weak vocalist in the cast, but unfortunately when they sang in unison, their lines were drowned out. This meant some plot points needed drilling home to avoid confusion, but the ending’s ambiguity was a bittersweet antidote to more saccharine maid portrayals a la The Help.

Some changes are good, others bad – but in the case of Caroline, a few minor tweaks would make an excellent show outstanding.

Until June 3.