Theatre review: Amelie

Jenny Booth heads to New Wimbledon Theatre for the new musical based on the much-loved film

The 2001 hit film Amelie was a spun sugar confection, stylish and fantastical, with a brilliant performance by Audrey Tautou at its heart bringing shy warmth, wit and charm.

The 2019 musical of Amelie keeps the quirky humour of the 2001 hit film, but the stage show looks and feels a little darker, which is no bad thing. Director Chris Fentiman brings out some of the quiet desperation running underneath the whimsical surface of this Parisian fairy tale.

Amelie has been brought up by her very odd parents to believe that it is impossible for human beings to be close to one another. Whereas in the film this seems merely eccentric, on stage as Audrey Brisson’s Amelie bends consolingly over the puppet of her childhood self we feel really indignant on her behalf.

amelieSo as the story begins the audience is already worried for Amelie, who is charming but vulnerable and shies away from emotions. In a magical touch from Madeleine Girling’s versatile set, every time a situation gets too much for her, Brisson reaches up to a hidden strap and soars 10ft into the air to her tiny, cosy flat high above Paris. She may be enjoying her solitary, indulgent life, nibbling raspberries off her fingertips and fantasising her own Lady Di-style funeral complete with Elton John tribute (brilliantly done by Caolan McCarthy), but seems too full of passion and imagination to hide away forever.

Then the discovery of a treasure box hidden in her flat introduces Amelie to the joys of playing God in other people’s lives. Her schemes are audacious and hilarious. But will her courage ever stop failing her when it comes to her own happiness?

Brisson’s Amelie is gamine and wistful, but has more grit than Tautou’s. Brisson is a great physical actress, able to project vulnerability, exasperation and mischief without a word. Danny Mac has joined the show as Amelie’s sensitive and thoughtful love interest, Nino Quincampoix. Mac’s Nino moves with cat-like precision and exudes understated sexiness. The ensemble are individually excellent, give or take the odd French accent. The show starts slowly but builds to a very satisfying climax – great entertainment.

New Wimbledon Theatre, until Saturday 25 May

Follow Jenny Booth on @culturevult