Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
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25 Aug REVIEW: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

SBSB Forget feminism, equality and any idea of a woman being anything other “a wife” (read: cook, cleaner and household manager) and embrace 19th century north west America, where wives were traded like cattle and women treated like staff. This is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, that romantic story in which those famously misogynistic ancient Romans provide the “courting” advice, and Cupid’s arrow doesn’t so much spread love as spread Stockholm Syndrome.

In living a life of servitude catering for hordes of townspeople, it’s hardly surprising that when Adam Pontipee (Alex Gaumond) arrives in town, “pretty and trim” Milly’s (Laura Pitt-Pulford) eyes widen to the opportunity of marrying and being able to run around after just one man (yippee, we cry!). But when she discovers, upon being whisked back to her new home, that not only is she to be looking after the one man, but also his six brothers, she hatches a plan to marry them off, transforming the seemingly neolithic men into passable members of society (yes, the sexism works both ways), before packing them off to the meat market to get themselves some women.

It was always inevitable that the stage revival of MGM’s 1954 film would be a bit of an uncomfortable one, with a full-scale reconstruction of the plot, attitudes, and social mores required to even approach a show that couldn’t be described as “sexist.” Indeed, any attempt to do so would probably leave Laura Pitt-Pulford standing on the stage, alone, humming to herself with nothing much to do. So instead, Rachel Kavanaugh’s production takes 19th century Oregon as a place and time in history and just rolls with it, drawing out the ways in which Milly really is the most intelligent and astute person in the town, influencing the men to reach the outcomes she desires and demonstrating the kind of resilience and determination that would make her a 21st century force to be reckoned with.

Gender roles aside, Kavanaugh’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers ultimately comes together into a stunning show, with the kind of production values that should make the West End look up and take note. Featuring a pair of outstanding performances from the two leads – a note-perfect Laura Pitt-Pulford as Milly and an impressive Alex Gaumond as Adam – it’s a show that’s really all about the ensemble numbers. A well-drilled cast deliver high-energy choreography (Alistair David), the Harvest Social extended dance break particularly memorable as the brothers engage in a kind of antediluvian dance off in the hopes of winning the affections of potential brides.

Despite featuring some more than unpalatable perspectives, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre play host to a production that raises the barn, new life breathed into a show that could have felt strangled by petticoats, but that’s instead lifted into an exuberant extravaganza of singing, dancing, woodcutting and weddings. There’s only one word for it: yee-haw!

For tickets and information:
Thanks to:
Venue: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Dates: 16th July – 29th August 2015
Images: Helen Maybanks

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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