Review: Classic cinema takes to the Belgrade stage in evocative style

An old story with modern relevance: La Strada
An old story with modern relevance: La Strada

Barbara Goulden reviews La Strada at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Lyrical, poetic and choreographically close to perfection – all of this can be said of La Strada, the new play being premiered at the Belgrade ahead of a national tour.

Based on the 60-year-old Italian film that shot Federico Fellini to fame, this stage recreation was devised by the performers themselves under the direction of Sally Cookson and with the support of writer Mike Akers.

On a brooding set punctuated by telegraph poles we first meet Gelsomina, played with an adorable Charlie Chaplin-like quality by Audrey Brisson.

The girl loves the sea, but her mother needs money to feed the rest of her children. It’s time for Gelsomina to earn her keep on the road, in the company of circus strongman Zampano.

Stuart Goodwin - no stranger to film and television success - plays Zampano with swagger and casual cruelty, although I was not entirely convinced by his fight scene with Bart Soroczynski, who has the role of The Fool.

Soroczynski, a Canadian actor with a circus background, displays considerable skill on a unicycle while the rest of the 12-strong international ensemble make his non-tightrope walk look utterly convincing.

But can he save Gelsomina with her beautiful voice from the brutal Zampano?

An evocative score, performed by the cast on stage, adds to the atmosphere of this new work, which I suspect will evolve as it goes on tour. I hope so because I wanted a more definitive ending with perhaps Zampano rediscovering the seeds sown earlier in the plot.

Travelling the road, aboard a truck, or in this case an imaginary motorbike, was the metaphor used by Fellini himself for life’s journey.

An old story of exploitation but, yes, a true story of the present.

Personally, I’d have liked just a little more.

* La Strada runs until Saturday February 18. Visit www.belgrade.co.uk to book.

* See elementarywhatson.com for more reviews.