By Jen Bolsover
This is a bold, high energy affair. The well-drilled young actors of Stage by Stage re-tell Voltaire’s classic tale of optimism and despair in just 50 minutes, and while the pace is breakneck, the show is focused and fun.
There are no weak links in this cast of talented young people. Alex Zawalynski is a sweet, fresh-faced Candide, suitably bemused as life hurls him from crisis to catastrophe. Erin Santillo delivers an excellent performance as the Old Lady – the mono-buttocked walk is a particular highlight. Will Trafford makes the most of a small role as Cacambo, Candide’s genre savvy companion, and steals most of the laughs in his scenes. The ensemble plays its part to the hilt, doing an excellent job of setting the scene and never shying away from the (highly stylised) sex and violence that Candide encounters along the way.
The staging is simple, relying on nothing more than hand props and a couple of flats to transport the audience from Schloss Thunder-ten-Tronckh to Lisbon and Latin America. There’s a classy selection of Baroque favourites on the soundtrack, but most of the sound effects are created by the cast themselves.
The adaptation is robust and high-spirited, though Voltaire aficionados may not appreciate the decision to cut the story off before the very end. However, in the context of this production, allowing Candide’s story to end on a high note makes sense and the whole thing is charming enough to forgive the decision to dispense with much of the philosophy.
Candide runs at Greenside@Nicolson Square until 22 August at 22:00. Running time is 50 minutes.