Review: Evita, Playhouse

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THE problem with Evita is that it is a drama-documentary set to music. Which means that, like Shakespeare or Eugene O’Neill, you have to sit through rather a lot of exposition to get to the place you really want to go.

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Marti Pellow. Picture: comp

Marti Pellow. Picture: comp

If it were opera, which the subject matter really ought to be, the curtain would fall as Peron and Argentina weep over the body of an extraordinary young woman cut down in her prime.

Instead, we have a rather sardonic Marti Pellow, as narrator Che, tell us in the tone of a History Channel presenter that Eva Peron’s body disappeared for 17 years after her funeral.

To convincingly pull off such difficult material, you need to have a cast with a strong background in classical theatre, and in handling verbose material with the lightest of touches.

Lead Madalena Alberto, as Eva Peron, does an admirable job of keeping up with the material. Her performance in the first act has a hard, driven quality to it that is almost reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher with a hearty dash of Christine Hamilton’s flirtatiousness thrown in for good measure. It isn’t until the second act that she really reveals any of Evita’s vulnerability, slowly letting her guard down as her health deteriorates. It’s a performance that works well on many levels, yet the juxtaposition between her driven first act and the sudden lightness of the second act, is difficult to reconcile.

Pellow, pictured, looks the part as derisive, cynical Che, and he has the presence to hold his own opposite Alberto, yet his lack of experience in theatre outside of musicals keeps him from really getting to grips with the role. Something particularly evident in his opening scenes, although a lack of momentum on stage also made for a difficult start.

Making up the lead trio, Mark Heenehan provided a competent and solid, if conservative performance as Peron.

This is a production that ticks all the right boxes yet never really grabs the audience’s hearts. Wonderful attention has been paid to lighting the stage, which ought to have created a great deal more intimacy than the director’s almost aggressive, bombastic approach to the material has allowed for.

• Run ends Saturday, February 8