Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut Review - Pleasance Theatre Islington

Casablanca – The Gin Joint Cut celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the iconic movie by re-imagining it onto the stage in a delightful rendition of the classic film.

The key thing writer/director Morag Fullarton understands is that it is necessary for a show such as this to break the illusion to create the illusion. So we are introduced to the actors who are playing actors who are then playing the many characters from the movie on the stage. This theatrical-awareness is integral to the success of this production – it allows the scenes recreated from the movie to stand on their own, with integrity that would not be possible if they were merely rehashed impersonations. As it is, we are free to indulge in the recreations and enjoy the process of them being created. It is also liberating to not sit there comparing every intonation with what you remember from the movie – instead you are lead through a nicely designed and neatly choreographed rendition that is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.

In echoes of The 39 Steps the cast of three play many characters. All are accomplished performers with Gavin Mitchell giving us a worthy Rick; Clare Waugh a sympathetic Ilsa to contrast with her Nazi Major; and Jimmy Chisholm, a Captain Renault who demonstrates impeccable comic timing. Incorporating the double casting as part of the show works really well and it ties in nicely with the construct of the play.

This production also highlights some of the contemporary issues that surrounded the shooting of the Casablanca the film in ‘DVD extras’ and this also plays nicely into the world of the play. Pacing-wise perhaps peppering them throughout might work better than blocking them all together when the audience is waiting and anticipating the appearance of the main characters. However they were a nice touch and fleshed out the context nicely.

The inventiveness of the staging of this show is clever and comical well suited to the space and venue. It is easy to imagine this script being performed in actual gin joints, theatre restaurants and other Fringe venues.

It is not completely necessary to have seen the film to enjoy this production but having done so might increase your savouring of the recreated iconic moments. As it is, you don’t get to see Bogart and Bergman, but the greatest strength of this play that you don’t miss them and that is a beautiful nod to a beautiful film.

Having transferred from the Edinburgh Fringe Casablanca – The Gin Joint Cut is a Gilded Balloon production playing at The Pleasance Theatre in Islington until the 21st October. You can book your tickets here.