Herman and Fierstein’s La Cage aux Folles was, when it first premiered, a risque and outrageous show which brought with it a rebellious and brave statement for homosexuality and expression. In 2017, with the show being thirty years old, we may now live in a more progressive world, but it is still very rare to come across such a commercially successful show that gives such an in-depth depiction of the relationship shared between two gay lovers. It is full of laughs, witty quips and pushes for reflection on life. With a look into transgender life, identity and the struggles that can be faced in a world that often seems unaccepting.
Gary McCann’s design is gaudy, somewhat overbearing and garishly flamboyant – yet perfectly apt. The costumes are adorned with feathers and bright colours, representing a freedom in the art form and the story. The club is embodied on stage, with a fluidity through the costumes and set.
Set in present day France, the love story of Georges and Albin is shrouded in secrecy and feathers. Director Martin Connor creates the world of ‘show girls’, with a sense of abandonment for the outside world. The singing and dance numbers are facetious and entertaining giving the audience the laughs that they seem to so desperately crave. John Partridge monopolizes the production, as he emits a provocative and powerful performance as Albin, his voice is incredible and the vulnerability in his character can be seldom seen, although we know it is there somewhere. The acting by the ensemble is full of energy, enthusiasm and demands high physicality for the entire show; with feather boa in hand, driving the laughs and the awe inspired gasps.
Overall, the show makes for an entertaining night out, particularly for a British audience looking for some giggles. The production values are high, however it occasionally lacks the depth that is hiding deep in the characters. Full of laughs and high quality music and singing there nevertheless are no hard hitting struggles to be dealt with here.
La Cage aux Folles played the New Wimbledon Theatre until March 18 and is touring into the summer.
Photo: Pamela Raith