The Liberation of Colette Simple
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A new musical adaptation of a Tennessee Williams short story penned by eight different lyricists including Amy Rosenthal and Robert Holman.
A brand new musical from a brand new company, ‘The Liberation of Colette Simple’ is a story about an awakening. Barricaded behind her white picket fence and line of petunias, Colette Simple sells trinkets from her shop in Middle America without really letting life in. But life decides to trample on her petunias one day and pay her a visit.
Based on Tennessee Williams’s 1941 one-act-play ‘The Case of the Crushed Petunias’, this also bears echoes of Williams’s more famous works. Colette has the mollycoddled air of Laura in ‘The Glass Menagerie’, and there’s a whiff of Blanche DuBois in her eventual collapse. Here though, the story is lighter, funnier and flimsier than either of Williams’s later plays.
In the hour-long show, performers Nathalie Carrington (Colette) and Gary Tushaw (everyone else) sing their way through the narrative in songs written by eight different lyricists, including Honeysuckle Weeks, Desmond O’Connor, Robert Holman and Amy Rosenthal.
French composer Vincent Guibert writes the music, resulting in a stylised, witty mix of straighter musical ballads, forties swing, rap and rock.
Though Carrington and Tushaw give committed, commanding performances, the loud onstage band often drowns out the lyrics. The songs get samey in the middle, and the piece barely varies its exhaustingly upbeat tone.
But a handful of tunes bring a charming and disarming quirkiness, such as Honeysuckle Weeks’s ‘Liberation Song’, when Carrington’s Colette breaks away from her old life with a frenzied physical performance. Matt Peover’s elegant stage direction contains some nice surprises: the moment Colette discovers her petunias have been ravaged, and a huge cascade of earth falls from the sky with a flump, is just brilliant.
It’s a strong first work from a company bound to blossom.