The Four-Letter-Word-Theatre presentation of Nine is a musical production that heralds it as not only a company that tackles the grit in life, but also the glitz. With twenty-nine talented cast members, a twenty-odd piece orchestra and a very impressive curtain, the scale of this production is certainly large. Lead character film director Guido Contini asks us “what’s a good thing for if not for taking it to excess?” and this is clearly advice that the production team took to heart in the creation of this show!
Nine is a musical about movies but is firmly grounded in the theatre. Director Sara Tabitha Catchpole does an excellent in balancing the two worlds to bring the audience into a rich and often stunningly visual world. Centre to this world is Guido Contini – a man that is stretched to breaking point in his personal and creative life. He exists as a man torn between his love and lusts for the women in his life, despite learning to love from Sarrahgina, a local courtesan when he was nine years old. Now in middle age his memories of her do not serve to comfort him as he faces Claudia his muse; Carla his whore and Luisa his wife. Having been taught by his Mama and teachers that there are only two types of women Guido now knows that there are three, all who seem to be fighting for control his sanity.
Impassioned accents drip through the music in this production of Nine. The entire cast is clearly enjoying themselves and the leads are particularly impressive. Josiah Lulham as Guido charismatic lead in an impressive cast. His ladies circling him are all talented with Annable Marshall-Roth and Charlotte Fox playing formidable competition for his affections. Alongside these shining women, Emma Caldwell delivers a remarkable performance as Luisa. Amongst the glitter and flourish it was fitting that it is ultimately Guido’s wife who is the source of all the underlying truth, emotion and love. Also worth mentioning is the scene stealing performance by Stephanie John reliving Lillian La Fleur’s past and Grant Burse’s turn as various incarnations of ‘the men.’
Cutting a section out of the front of the state was impressive design – as was the realisation of a giant circular curtain suspended above a tiered platform. The set designers and construction team deserve commendations for the realisation of their ambitious design. If there was any critique of the final presentation it might be that the Union House Theatre stage is rather wide so the elements are quite disparate in the space rather than forming a cohesive picture. However the width of the stage did give space for the more elaborate dance numbers so it is an effective functional place.
The choreography in this show is at times fun, at times daring and always entertaining. Cassie Pennicuik demonstrates considerable talent and variety in her choreography and her vision fits well into the action around the dance. This is a clear indication of an excellent working relationship with the director as well as her own creative clarity of vision. Especially inspired was the waltz for ‘Only With You’ – a wonderfully deceptively simple concept and very effective at reinforcing the nature of the relationship between Guido and his women.
So step right into a seductive world of Nine, let Guido be your guide as he freefalls creatively and personally into a world of women that is of his own making.