Based on Voltaire’s Candide, Optimism follows a young man as he travels around the world and suffers innumerable ills, all the while espousing the theory that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds’.
This adaptation remains true to the original satire while injecting the story with a youthful energy. It blends music, puppetry and storytelling to provide a fascinating exploration of the nature of Optimism.
Written by Shaun May and Rebecca Lea, Directed by Shaun May
Review – The Londonist
Square Moon Theatre’s potted version of Voltaire’s potted yet potent satire, Candide brims with good ideas, ingenious storytelling and skips along picaresquely.
The cast of 4 create and populate a fantastical world using bags full of cleverly suggestive props, voices, physical tics and a brilliant puppet as our wide-eyed protagonist pursues his unfortunate ravished, almost disembowelled, enslaved lover across continents. He faces down Bulgarians, the army, the Inquisition, fraudsters, priests and the lure of an idyllic Eldorado along the way. His travelling companions help him ponder whether Dr Pangloss’s obstinate optimism that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds” is actually cobblers or not.
The cast slip effortlessly outside the narrative, adding another layer to the show. The moment of Candide’s utter disillusionment is particularly poignant as the actor appears genuinely, personally grief stricken. Her extended sob halts action. Thank heavens for the discipline of the narrator announcing scene intros through a megaphone, holding everything together. Postmodern winks come in the form of a discussion about the use of the word handicapped to describe the uni-limbed black slave Candide meets in Surinam and as actors become audience and critique themselves, branding a particularly short scene “lazy” for the purpose of deftly dissing critics in general.
The story comes to a mixed conclusion but this production leaves Candide cultivating his garden to the sound of Fake Plastic Trees as the rest of the cast tidy up the flurry of discarded props and exeunt quietly, shortly followed by a still hopeful Candide and we’re done and dusted. Neat, sweet, inventive and witty – not only did we thoroughly enjoy Square Moon Theatre’s Optimism, we did so in comfort. Newsflash, fringers: the Roundhouse Studio is not hot. Winner.
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