Culture Theatre

Review: Evita

By Abbie Rands

★★★★★

The opening moments of Evita truly showcase this powerhouse explosion of a performance; a show that doesn’t let up until the final curtain.

I have always loved cyclical shows, and Evita adheres to this tradition in such grand style that the opening events really do remain in the back of your mind throughout the whole performance – and long after! The scenery is incredible and is complemented by a mournful kaleidoscopic lighting, creating the feeling that the stage is illuminated by light filtering through stained glass windows. This brooding atmosphere creates a real spectacle, placing Eva behind her own funeral portrait, singing and pleading with us in a moment that was breath-taking.

Throughout the entire production, there was not a moment when I, as an audience member, did not feel part of the setting. I was there, whether there was a church; a tango bar; a presidential address; or a bus to Buenos Aires (which, by the way, was rendered brilliantly).

Lucy O’Byrne (Evita) is a huge voice in tiny packaging; an absolutely incredible performer, playing both the soft and vulnerable and bold and outspoken parts of the character in perfect parallel. Glenn Carter’s (Che’s) voice is astonishing with perfect diction – vital as the narrator of the story in permanent dialogue with the audience. Mike Sterling was an incredible Peron, his presence drew your eye even when he was not the focus of a scene and Cristina Hoey certainly deserves a mention. Though Hoey she was only in a single scene, as Peron’s mistress, her solo was one of the most memorable and emotional parts of the production.

The symbolism of the ‘celebrity cultism’ surrounding those in power was also highly effective throughout, showing how the glitz and glamour began to overtake those in power. During ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’, the most well-known and beautiful song of the production, the lights on Eva were so bright you could barely see her. This theme of ‘celebrity politicians’ is certainly relevant today and, throughout the performance, the danger of individuals becoming more synonymous with power than the countries they belong to was clear. Eva tells us time and time again, ‘I am Argentina’, but we question whether she was more movie star or a politician. Was she only a rallying point of escapism and beauty? Or did her radio performances, early in her career, highlight her desire to help the struggling Argentinian people?

The final scenes were heart-breaking. Watching the two powerful, commanding characters slowly giving up was incredibly moving and it was truly beautiful when Eva reached out to Che after her final radio performance, silently asking him to tell her story faithfully. Away from the politics and the glamour, Eva now appeared as just a girl, overtaken by the ambition to make a difference, for herself and for her country.

As the cast took their bows, I was still left rapt, wondering how much of the girl onstage was the ‘real Eva’ and how much was constructed fantasy to produce one of the greatest performances I have ever seen.

***

Interview with Glenn Carter (Che)

 

Congratulations on your opening performance, the show was fantastic!

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

 

How did it feel taking on a role in such a well-loved and so often adapted story? Was there a lot of pressure to get it right?

It’s difficult because with something like this, you can feel under a lot of pressure and try to live up to someone else. But, the way I usually approach it is to try not to worry; to just look at the page and work out the best way to do it. Generally, my performances are different because I don’t look at the videos or reputations of others. I don’t try to do what someone else has done, I just try and communicate it the best way I can. Che is a changeable character, who has to be both critical and supportive of Eva and, having played so many ‘real’ characters like Che,  I just lay down my own rules for the part. I try not to ‘be’ that person, but just make it my own.

 

What has been the most challenging/exciting/enjoyable aspect of performing in Evita?

The most challenging has definitely been learning such a huge role. It’s arguably the biggest role in the show – always on stage and singing. This means I’m always in the moment and there’s no time to think ahead to the next scene and prepare myself.

Discovering the show as I go along has been the most challenging, but also the most fun part. I love having that dialogue with the audience, telling a story and love the songs! I don’t even see what’s going on behind me most of the time!

 

How does performing in the Millenium Centre compare to doing shows on the West End? Do you prefer touring with a production or giving it a ‘home’ so to speak?

It’s definitely easier to perform in one place. You get used to the acoustics and the technical aspects because they’re the same every night and there’s a comfort that comes with that. The Millenium is a wide stage, so the show has to adjust to that, especially on opening nights; it’s more challenging to travel, but it can also be more fun.

 

What is your opinion of Eva Duarte? What do you think her motives were?

I think there are two angles. In the musical, Eva seems like she may have been embezzling from the people but, there’s little evidence for this level of self-satisfaction. She was unpopular with the establishment and was targeted in negative press. She came from nowhere and she did a lot of positive work for the poor, for women – a Robin Hood job, really. Personally, I don’t judge her. She inspired a whole nation – even to this day. I think Che, who rose to prominence much later, would have appreciated her work and used her as a mentor if they met. Anyone doing her job would have been criticised.

 

Finally, your theatre credits are pretty impressive. What has been your favourite role that you’ve had the opportunity to take on?

In truth, my favourite production was a Bluegrass Hillbilly musical where I played Floyd Collins. It ran for 3 months and I think we made about 80 quid each but it was a great story and a production. Other than that, it’s a tie between Che Guevara and Tommy Devito in Jersey Boys. When you’ve been fortunate enough to have a career as long as I’ve had, it’s so hard to choose. They’re all so different

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