Le Bossu @ Bedlam
Theatre company withWings are building a reputation for making delightful twists on classics. In 2014, they brought a convivial retelling of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake to Bedlam. The Duck Pond was a sell-out that became a Bobby award winner. With the stakes high, they've returned to Edinburgh with Le Bossu, a musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame – but this rich, stylistic show has little to do with the Disney classic.
For a start, the plot is somewhat back-benched by a dazzling spectacle of a show. Tearing between scenes (Victor Hugo's lengthy novel is condensed into one hour), Le Bossu splits its time between musical ensemble numbers, essential key moments and intricate comic bits that play for laughs. Best is an affectionate ode to pigeons; carefully brought to life by a pair of bellows, like puppets.
withWings' production features a fistful of absorbing compositions that hang in the air. Both ensemble numbers and solos are spectacularly sung and the weight of the romance is conveyed with particular poignancy by the actor playing Quasimodo. Hugo's novel, experimentally sewn together in song, is offset by a staging full of inventive props; Paris is there in the foreground, made out of tiny model buildings with low-lit windows that convey the Gothic of Hugo's novel. Quasimodo's bell tower forms most of the stage, an all-encompassing set piece and plot anchor when the show digresses into comedy and song.
Paired with ambitious choreography, the show is a sensual and emotionally engulfing retelling of the tragedy. At times, a more straightforward focus on plot may have been the challenge the company needed. Yet, Le Bossu works as a playful spin on Hugo’s novel that'll have you reaching for the hankies.