REVIEW: CANDIDE (Bridewell Theatre) ★★★★


Based on Voltaire’s novella of 1759, this story concerns the naive young man Candide and his adventures on both sides of the Atlantic (and a few mishaps along the way).

Candide is an innocent who, at the outset, lives in Baron of Thunder-Den-Tronk’s castle in the Westphalia region of Germany, and wants nothing more than to marry the Baron’s daughter Cunegonde much to the ire of both her father and boastful, spoilt brother. Because of this he is evicted from the castle by the angry baron and so begins a vast journey across the Atlantic to South America and back again to Europe.

Candide travels through Europe where he makes some enemies but also gains a certain amount of soldierly experience, which stands him in good stead during his travels. He receives news as he begins his journey of the fighting taking place in his homeland and the violent death of Cunegonde, her father and her brother.

Candide attracts a band of hard bitten, world weary characters to his group of companions and even some old friends. Candide’s battle to retain his innocence and “best of all possible worlds” philosophy is the real theme of this play.

This play is in fact a musical, and a funny musical at that. Leonard Bernstein, who wrote this, was a master at taking seriously iconic stories, humanising them and turning them into seriously interesting musicals such as Romeo and Juliet which was turned into the excellent West Side Story.

The Sedos Company is, in name at least, an amateur group. They are in fact remarkably good. If this would be plonked down in the middle of the West End or Broadway they would fit in perfectly. There are many fine voices and some exceptional ones. It may be a little unfair to pick out individuals but Emma Morgan who played Cunegonde had a beautiful strong voice with a truly remarkable range. Her acting was excellent too and perfectly showed the dichotomy of Cunegonde’s sometimes venal and sometimes loyal and loving personality.

I would also love to heap praise upon Kate Gledhill who played the delectable floozy Paquette. She again sang wonderfully and her cheeky acting stole many scenes. Mark Siddall as Candide was excellent and Stephen Russell as the storyteller Pangloss/Voltaire was both hilarious and telling.

The orchestra were exceptional, and overall the production was very satisfying. A lovely evening and the three hours absolutely flew by. The audience were unsurprisingly very appreciative. Please try to go and see this, you will love it.

Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: David Ovenden/Sedos

CANDIDE plays at Bridewell Theatre until 3 December 2016