Review: Evita, Open Air Theatre

Jamie Lloyd’s reinvention of Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre proves a storming success

“I could find job satisfaction in Paraguay”

If this was the production of Evita that was forever touring the UK, then we could all be a hell of a lot more enthused about the future of UK theatre. Bill Kenwright might have the business side locked down with dull predictability but at the Open Air Theatre, Jamie Lloyd is unleashing a torrent of creative genius which proves inordinately exciting to witness.

He offers up a complete reimagining of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical and one which feels sparkingly fresh in every single aspect. The open bleachers of Soutra Gilmore’s design which turns our focus to the human relationships here, the striking physicality of Fabian Aloise’s choreography with its haunting screaming faces and way-cool domino effect points to societal trauma and most crucially, Lloyd allows the shadow of populist politics to loom large.

So Samantha Pauly’s thoroughly contemporary Eva is unafraid to let the rougher edges of her youthful confidence show – the way ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ is undercut is a masterclass in insincerity akin to Donald Trump’s autocue reading. And when she meets her partner in ruthless ambition – a superb Ektor Rivera as Juan Perón – there’s a chilling effectiveness to their work. ‘A New Argentina’ becomes a full-on political rally, a riot of albiceleste tickertape and smoke cannons.

The production never lets us forget the humanity in the story though, whether the faces of the disappeared half-visible in the shadows, spurned lovers unable to escape the sidelines, or Trent Saunders’ put-upon Che (give the man a blanket!). And wisely steering clear of sentimentality, Pauly skilfully fleshes out character in a way that feel utterly convincing and more truthful than ever before.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Evita is booking at the Open Air Theatre until 21st September

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