I’ll start with a confession – best to be honest, right? I knew very little of the story of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution before watching Cake – The Marie Antoinette Playlist, and I’ll probably still struggle now, but this ballet/contemporary dance-infused musical has absolutely given me an appetite for more.
Cake tells us the story, in one frenetic and enthralling Act which uses a contemporary mix of musical styles, blending rap, hip-hop, and dub-step with the occasional ballad, of the Parisian Queen’s downfall, and how she became embroiled in the jewellery fraud which eventually led to her demise.
The company itself is an extremely talented and versatile troupe of six performers, with Renée Lamb (best known for her role as Catherine of Aragon in the debut of SIX) grippingly guiding the narrative as the plotting yet ultimately sympathetic peasant, Jeanne. The iconic role of Marie is portrayed spell-bindingly by Zizi Strallen. Both women were incredible individual vocalists, but the moments where they were able to duet sent shivers down my spine.
Elsewhere, Travis Ross puts in some scene-stealing comic turns as the Cardinal, showing off a wonderful voice at the same time as being a superb dancer. The cast is completed by B Terry, Ope Sowande and Megan Bryony Gibbs, each of whom are a force to be reckoned with particularly in terms of dance.
Although ultimately, it’s telling us a little about the struggle the French people went through in the 18th century, the script was very deliberately filled with poignant lines for today’s audiences, giving less than subtle but wryly funny nods to the increasing imbalance in our modern society between the haves and have-nots.
It’s billed as a development production, so I’m sure there will be changes along the way before it eventually reaches the stratospheric heights it seems destined for. First and foremost of those changes for me would be the set, which while not having an issue with minimalism, it would have been nice to have included a few nods to our iconic host city.
But this is simply a bit of decoration atop of what is already a refined and delicious gateau. And on this showing, I’m already salivating for another slice. Cake continues at Norwich Theatre’s Playhouse until 29 April.