The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – Reviews Round-up

A round-up of reviews for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud Theatre in London

Joanna Riding in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Joanna Riding in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Innovative theatre company Kneehigh’s new production, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, opened last night at the Gielgud Theatre in London. Directed by Emma Rice the show stars Joanna Riding, Meow Meow, Carly Bawden and Andrew Durand.

Based on Jacques Demy’s 1964 film, with a score by Michel Legrand, the show tells the simple love story between a young girl (played by Carly Bawden) who’s mother (Joanna Riding) owns an umbrella shop, and a garage mechanic (Andrew Durand) who has to leave her for his military service.

Read reviews from the Times, Guardian, Variety, Telegraph and Evening Standard, below.


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Average Critics Rating


“Suspiciously thin would be my verdict on this stage version adapted and directed by Emma Rice for Kneehigh. The Michel Legrand score still offers its fitful pleasures, and the bittersweet ending is retained; but it seems an oddly gratuitous translation of a highly successful film into theatrical terms.”
“What is lost are the very things that made the film so original. One is the way in which the fluid camera movement matched the seamless recitative of the Legrand score: take that away, and you are left with a show that, with the exception of I Will Wait for You, seems strangely lacking in musical or dramatic highlights.”
"The performances themselves are fine. Carly Bawden conveys Genevieve's innocence, Andrew Durand shows Guy plausibly embittered by both the war and his lover's desertion, and Joanna Riding as Genevieve's mum has the right flighty desperation.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
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“I have to say that the film is far from being my own tasse de tisane, with its Gallic artiness and a whimsical charm that often borders on the downright kitsch. And since Rice’s stage adaptation is pretty faithful to the original – though she has roughed it up a bit, with a louche narrator, engagingly played by the busty cabaret artiste Meow Meow, plus a trio of hunky, dancing French sailors – the show didn’t do much for me either.”
“this strikes me as the kind of evening that will appeal to susceptible women in the audience, who will wallow in the bittersweet romance of it all, while most of the chaps will be bored stiff, though they will just have to grin and bear it if they want to keep their partners happy.”
“There is little psychological insight in the writing and the fact that all the dialogue is sung serves to underline its banality.”
“there is only one decent song amid the interminable recitative. Legrand’s I Will Wait for You is certainly a dreamily romantic melody, but a musical with only one great number seems to me to be short-changing its audience.”
“Joanna Riding is excellent as the anxious, control-freak of a mother”
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
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“... events are framed by cabaret artist Meow Meow, who as vixenish hostess Lola begins by clambering through the stalls and later gets the best song ("Sans toi", originally written by Legrand for another film). The device is curious and not wholly effective. Her repeated joke that she's a "maîtresse" rather than a "mattress" is indicative of the production's thin humour, manifest in a skimpy pastiche of French culture that leaves one wondering who forgot the baguettes.”
“The main plot is sung-through; there aren't choruses but instead, as in the film, a wealth of sung dialogue. It's a fine achievement by Legrand, but not truly engaging. The lyrics, in an old and for present purposes none too apt translation by Sheldon Harnick, feel banal. Carly Bawden brings a sweet purity to Geneviève. But Joanna Riding seems underused as her mother, and Andrew Durand's Guy is somewhat stiff.”
“Lez Brotherston's designs are inventive, and there are imaginative touches from director Emma Rice. Yet even these are overstretched.”
“It's all rather insipid and bitty - the film's colour is lost, and little is added.”
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
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“"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is, as expected, brimming with imaginative touches. But this time, effort outstrips the achievement.”
“Sung dialogue/plot is notoriously hard to take; recognizing this, Rice adds a master of ceremonies... But delicious though her interludes are (scripted by Carl Grose), they prove counterproductive in terms of engagement.”
“Andrew Durand as her lover looks stranded, as if working in a language he doesn't quite understand. The higher his voice goes, the stronger it is, but as he stares fixedly out at the auditorium, you wish he would relax into the role.”
“Orchestrally, the show couldn't be better. Musical director Nigel Lilley, onstage throughout ramping up the cabaret mood, marshals a band of seven that sounds far bigger. If the rest of the show had that controlled flair, it would be a winner.”
“despite moments of beauty, with no tension, there's little emotional release.”
David Benedict, Variety
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“Her [Lola’s] one song packs twice the punch of the main story: otherwise the only convincingly passionate moments are Geneviève’s soaring I will wait for you (Carly Bawden, a lovely clear voice) and the fury of the garagiste when Guy (Andrew Durand) fails to check a customer’s oil-levels.”
“In the first act, neatly choreographed matelots rearrange not only props but people, and it is hard to feel the intimacy of lovers when they are being whisked from bollard to bollard. It is a relief when later Geneviève’s mother (Joanna Riding) crossly motions the helpful seafarers away and exits unaided.”
“Lez Brotherston’s set is enchanting,with doll’s-house streets, gantries and a long ramp to slither down.”
Libby Purves, The Times
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📷 Main photo: A round-up of reviews for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud Theatre in London

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