Adam Wollerton rates Side Show four stars. Find out why.
This week I was invited down to see the freaks at the Side Show! Currently pitching their tent in Southwark Playhouse, this star-studded circus offers up something ‘unique’ for London audiences. And what show isn’t complete without a bearded lady, a three-legged man, and of course, conjoined twins? Along with a whole host of quirky characters, Side Show tells a dark tale of sisterly love and embracing your differences, whether the world is ready for you or not.
So, what’s the reason for getting down and seeing Side Show? Well, the conjoined twins are certainly the headline act! And when those conjoined twins are Louise Dearman, best known for her roles in Wicked, and Laura Pitt-Pulford, you can’t not be intrigued to what this duo can bring to the stage.
As our leading lady/ladies they do not disappoint. As twins, they portray a strong, natural sisterly connection with the perfect balance of similarities and differences. Dearman, as Daisy Hilton, plays the more outspoken and confident of the twins. Her charm and wide-eyed nature is endearing and there are some lovely comedic moments when her personality bumps with the more older-sisterly demeanour of Violet Hilton (Pitt-Pulford). The two do a marvellous job of bringing these sisters to life and demonstrating not just a physical connection, but a mental one too – and when their voices conjoin in ballads such as Who Will Love Me As I Am? and I Will Never Leave You, you can’t help but watch in amazement.
Dearman and Pitt-Pulford are put to the test throughout the show when they are thrown into various situations where their opinions differ. They are challenged to show that though they are bound by their connection they can still portray the ability to maintain an individual personality whilst still making their circumstance believable. And they do so brilliantly. As an audience, you see these two twins as separate in mind and identity but as one body as they move around the stage and interact with the cast.
The staging and design of the production was beautiful and mystical, much credit to takis for the be a great presentation of the space at Southwark Playhouse. Naturally, the design is only one part of the production and the lighting by Howard Hudson certainly highlighted some great features of the clever setting.
From a direction point of view, overall the production flowed nicely and the actors were strong in character representation and staying true to their base characters even when playing as various other people that the twins meet during their venture. However, there was similar staging throughout and it did feel a bit set at times when it could have moved a little more naturally rather than presenting part of a scene to one area of the audience, then to another, and then to another as it made me aware of the audience around rather than being able to totally lose myself in the atmosphere of the Side Show.
It has to be noted that the whole cast is very strong in this production and the moments in some of the songs when harmonies hit were incredible, but there were a few characters of note. Namely Agnes Pure, as the Tattooed Girl, and Nuno Queimado, as the Lizard Man. Pure has strong characterisation and revelled in her role displaying a whole range of emotions and still found niches of comedy throughout. Similarly for Queimado, his presentation of the Lizard Man was enjoyable to watch and when he swapped to other characters such as Houdini, he lead the section confidently – although I have to admit I was hoping for an escapologist trick!
Finally, I have to commend the character of Jake, played wonderfully byJay Marsh. His love for Violet, and the twins in general, is sincere and filled with adoration. Marsh’s protectiveness over the girls is just the right blend of brotherly love with an underlying tone of true love for Violet. Although when it gets to the penultimate scenes, you can’t help but hope Violet will choose him to take down the aisle.
This show is something that doesn’t belong on the side at all. When the sisters sing Who Will Love Me As I Am?, I think the audience can answer that with an ‘everyone!’. This production embraces the weird and asks you to be proud of your distinctive traits. There are some incredible moments in this production and songs that will never leave you even when you leave your seat. Make sure you get down to Southwark Playhouse and the home of this uniquely talented cast! Go see the freaks!
Side Show: The Musical runs until 3 December at Southwark Playhouse. Tickets at southwarkplayhouse.co.uk.
Written by: @AdamWollerton
The Show: @Side_ShowUK
The Venue: @swkplay
The PR: @MarkSeniorPR