REVIEW – THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE

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5th June 2019

Review by Shaun Tossell

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an unusual choice for a musical adaptation but I’m so glad the creators of this show thought to do it, otherwise we would of been deprived of one of the best British musicals in years.

This brand new musical is based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby.

For those who are not familiar with the story, the main premise is of a man named Benjamin Button, who was born with the body and mind of an old man. He was then destined to age backwards, getting younger and younger as those around him grew older. Things are complicated when Benjamin falls in love with a local girl named Elowen Keene.

This sets the stage for an epic love story spanning a lifetime.

The cast of just five actor musicians vividly bring this story to life, each bringing charm and heart to their characters onstage, eliciting laughs one moment and breaking your heart the next. Especially impressive was James Marlowe, who plays the title role of Benjamin, imbuing him with a sense of wonder and innocence.

I was fully transported by the inventive minimal staging and beautiful atmospheric lighting which cleverly utilised the small space fully.

The use of puppetry to convey the younger Benjamin is performed wonderfully, the simple puppets expertly crafted from bits of wood, string and plastic bottles have no right to work as well as they do but I totally bought into to them.

The gorgeous celtic songs by Darren Clark and Jethro Compton permeate the show with energy and transport us back in time. They are also sung beautifully by the rediculously talented cast. I want a cast recording yesterday.

In short, this musical is theatre at its purest, transporting us for a couple of hours to the Cornish coast, in some magical distant past, to witness a love story that is fantastical yet feels so real. I hope to god that this show gets to have a life outside of this run and when it does, I will be first in line to buy a ticket.

Jethro Compton