Sunday, 21 April 2019

Amélie’s story is coming of age on Watermill stage

Amélie’s story is coming of age on Watermill stage

IT was the French-language film that charmed the world.

Released in 2001 and starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz, Amélie told the story of a shy but instinctively kind-hearted Parisian waitress who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better while struggling with her own isolation.

Single but not a virgin, Amélie lets her imagination roam freely and finds contentment in simple pleasures like dipping her hand into grain sacks, eating raspberries off the ends of her fingers and cracking crème brûlée with a spoon.

It is only when she meets an equally quirky young man, Nino Quincampoix, who collects the discarded photographs of strangers from passport photo booths, that she finally seizes the chance to find happiness for herself.

Amélie’s huge international success saw it named best film at the European Film Awards. It won four César Awards, two BAFTAs, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best foreign language film.

Now, 18 years on from the film’s original release, Amélie’s story is finally coming of age as a stage musical that had its UK premiere last night (Thursday) at the Watermill Theatre in Bagnor.

Directed by Michael Fentiman, whose previous credits include The Last Days of Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London, Amélie The Musical is running at the Watermill until Saturday, May 18, before touring the UK and internationally.

Venues the show is due to visit include the Wycombe Swan from June 10 to 15 and the New Theatre Oxford from June 17 to 22.

Michael Fentiman said: “As a theatre maker, staging Amélie as a musical is one of those exciting, terrifying challenges that you absolutely cannot turn down. It is a gentle, magical and uncynically joyous piece that takes its audience on a surreal flight of fancy into the mind of an extraordinary young woman, Amélie Poulain. It’s going to be a huge pleasure to open the show at the beautiful Watermill Theatre before then taking our extremely talented actor-musician cast around the UK.”

Playing the title role is Audrey Brisson, a French-Canadian star of stage and screen. After studying classical singing at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montreal, the actress trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.

Growing up, she had worked extensively with Cirque du Soleil as a vocalist and acrobat, performing in their international tours of Reinvente, Quidamand and the Cirque du Soleil 30th anniversary concert.

Audrey said: “Bonjour. Je m’appelle Audrey Brisson et c’est avec un immense plaisir que je m’apprête à jouer le rôle d’Amélie Poulain. That is to say, I am really looking forward to sharing this journey filled with imagination and quirkiness that Amélie will concoct for us. Until then, à bientôt — have a raspberry on me!”

Meanwhile, Hollyoaks star, West End regular and Strictly Come Dancing favourite Danny Mac has this week been confirmed to play Nino Quincampoix in the touring version of the show that visits High Wycombe and Oxford.

A spokesman for the show said: “Danny captured the nation’s hearts and received overwhelming support during his incredible time on Strictly in 2016, with a series of perfect scores taking him to the final. Having begun his performing career at an early age in Cameron Mackintosh’s tour of Les Misérables, he reprised the role a year later in the West End. His other theatre credits include Wicked in the West End, Legally Blonde and White Christmas at Leicester’s Curve theatre, On the Town at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and his award-winning turn in the UK tour of Sunset Boulevard.

“Audrey Brisson’s theatre credits include The Elephantom, Pinocchio and Pericles (National Theatre), Midnight’s Pumpkin and The Wild Bride (Kneehigh), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Kensington Gardens), Dead Dog in a Suitcase & Other Love Songs (Kneehigh), Romeo and Juliet (Rose Theatre, Kingston), The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (Kneehigh), The Grinning Man (Bristol Old Vic), The Strada (UK Tour and The Other Palace). Her film credits include Hereafter directed by Clint Eastwood and W.E. directed by Madonna. Her television roles include Outlander (Amazon) and Money (BBC Two).”

Summing up the show’s appeal, the spokesman added: “Amélie is the story of an astonishing young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. She secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart. Although times are hard for dreamers, Amélie is someone to believe in.”

Tickets for the Watermill run are priced £16 to £29 for adults, with concessions available. For more information and to book, visit www.watermill.org.uk and www.ameliethemusical.com

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