Review: Amelie at the Alhambra

THE whole ensemble (including the titular character) tell Amelie’s story from her sheltered childhood to her insular adult existence. Adult Amelie perches piano top alongside a puppet version of her younger self while her doctor father and neurotic mother fuss around her. Later shaped by her guarded childhood, Amelie’s discovery of a children’s trinket box is the catalyst for some serious life changes after she sets herself the mission to find its owner.

The multi-talented cast play a variety of parts and live instruments, including violin, cello, accordion and piano. Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen’s music and lyrics are a worthy substitute for Yann Tiersen’s beloved score. “The Sound of Going Around in Circles” introduces all the cafe workers and includes a catchy chorus with nice harmonies. “Goodbye Amelie” includes a comical Elton performance in tribute to Diana’s death. “Three Figs” is a brilliant sequence and “There’s No Place Like Gnome” comically realises the endearing gnome postcards from the film. To contrast, “From Here” is a moving number and “Halfway” a poignant reflection on Amelie’s mother with neat links to the play’s opening.

Living passively and vicariously through others, the elusive protagonist explores themes of loneliness, isolation and the aftermath of a damaging childhood. Amelie’s relationship with the elderly painter (Johnson Willis) who lives in the flat opposite is moving to watch develop while a duet with Nino (Danny Mac) is perfectly pitched.

Designer Madeleine Girling’s set is true to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s original quirky vision with steampunk elements and much of the original film’s iconography and 90s’ setting. A “Metropolitain” sign in vintage typography sits above centre stage, complementing the set’s drab colour palette, creating its griminess to emphasise beauty in the ordinary. A lamp shade acts as a lift to Amelie’s small apartment, cleverly depicted through a fisheye camera effect.

Fans of the original film will likely love this life-affirming production that does the characters, story and setting justice. Theatre lovers may recognise elements of Kneehigh Theatre in this production and interestingly Brisson has actually starred in several of their musical shows. Tenderly inspiring random acts of kindness, Amelie rings true in a paradoxical world seeking connection through social media while ironically curbing physical connection.

by Leo Owen