★★ | Yarico, London Theatre Workshop
Yarico, an Amerindian beauty, is a young woman with a fierce, independent spirit. Bored of the monotonous routine of small island life, she longs to escape. When Inkle, the third son of a British merchant is shipwrecked on her island, he faces certain death at the hands of the islanders. Yarico intervenes and saves him from his fate, marking the beginning of a story that ultimately takes them to the island of Barbados where fate has a horrific surprise in store for her.
This new musical is based on a true story that fired the world’s imagination and contributed to a social movement against the slave trade. It’s a story of great historical significance that has been told from the 17th century onwards and one that caused a change in attitudes towards slavery.
Sadly, the musical doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the underlying story. Performing a musical in a small space has inherent difficulties and the staging of this piece doesn’t lend itself to an intimate theatre. The performers are bawdy, expressive and, at times, brash. In a larger venue this would work but in this case, it made the action seem like a pantomime at times. There are some very powerful musical numbers but equally, there are some incredibly weak ones and the dialogue is also very hit and miss, leaving a mixed bag of a show. The humour is often juvenile, dated and laden with double-entendres; failing to raise more than the occasional titter and a few tumbleweed moments on the night I saw the show.
Credit to the leads though: Newcomer Liberty Buckland as Yarico gives an exceptional performance in a vehicle way beneath her fine acting and vocal talents. The very able Tori Allen-Martin does her best to enliven a weak role as Yarico’s friend Nono and Alex Spinney shows fine vocal performances if slightly less polished acting skills at times.
Ultimately this felt like a musical that had potential but failed to deliver. It didn’t seem to know what it was: an educational story, a love story or a bawdy romp? None of these elements quite worked and they certainly didn’t gel in a story that was at times rushed and unconvincing.
In spite of all of this, it’s worth going along just to see Liberty Buckland who is surely bound for great things.
Yarico runs until the 14th of March 2015
Buy tickets here: http://londontheatreworkshop.co.uk/yarico/