Presented by Brink Productions, Adelaide Guitar Festival, and State Theatre Company
Reviewed 13th July 2021
Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning novella is an extraordinary work. Set in the early 18th century in Peru, it tells the story of five people who all find themselves on an Incan rope bridge on the day it collapses: The Marquesa de Montemayor, Pepita, Esteban, Uncle Pio, and Don Jaime. Each of these five are connected in some way to the glittering star of stage, the Perichole. A portrait of the Spanish ruling class of Latin America, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is also an exploration of love in its often ugly passion, the complexities of family, and the meanings we put behind the word “God”.
Phillip Kavanagh has adapted Wilder’s story for the stage, keeping it simple, and very much tied to the book itself. This year’s winner of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Icon Award, Paul Capsis, takes on this one-man show, ably directed by Chris Drummond. Capsis reads sections of the book, whilst taking on various roles, most notably the Perichole, who is possibly his spirit animal! His reading is impeccable, whilst the characterisations are suitably large, without morphing into caricature. He also sings several numbers including a quirky version of Sia’s Chandelier. This show was made for Capsis, and he clearly revels in the roles, words, and the songs. He is a joy to watch.
Guitarists Slava Grigoryan and Manus Noble share the stage with Capsis, providing a haunting soundtrack, and subtly but strongly holding space both in physical and narrative terms. Technically impeccable, the music weaves in and around Wilder’s exquisitely lyrical words.
Design by Jonathon Oxlade and lighting by Gavin Norris work together to provide a simple, uncluttered, and beautiful, framework for the three performers.
Poetic, musical, hilarious, outrageous, dark, wise, and very moving, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a triumph.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Venue: Space Theatre
Season: 9-24th July
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Rating out of 5: 4.5
Photo Credit: Chris Herzfeld