Marco Polo: An Untold Love Story, Shaw Theatre, review: ‘an ambitious epic which proved disappointing’

PUBLISHED: 15:57 26 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:57 26 August 2016

Marco Polo: An Untold Love Story at the Shaw Theatre

Marco Polo: An Untold Love Story at the Shaw Theatre

Archant

The Philippines and UK celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations, and the Shaw Thearre’s Marco Polo charts the explorers journey

As the Philippines and UK celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations, this ambitious epic charting Marco Polo’s journey from jostling Venetian waterways to the majestic Cathay lands at The Shaw Theatre.

The opening set was beautifully conceived – all mottled pools of shifting narrow light and the haunting sound of an echoic ‘drip-drip-drip’.

The cast contributed bold, hearty performances, matching the story’s complexity with commendable empathy. David Bianco and Stephanie Reese were well matched in their roles as Marco and Princess Kogajin; Nicholas Lupu provided a wistful Lord Khogatal; Pinky Marquez-Cancio was an imposing Empress Wu.

However, the complete offering proved disappointing. The music itself, whilst occasionally pleasing interrupted the story’s flow, monopolising valuable time that could have been better served weaving greater depth into the script - essential given the production’s reach.

The score felt contrived vacillating tediously between operatic overtones and musical theatre too brash to aid the intricate narrative. And, whilst the cast delivered each note with rich tones, this wasn’t enough to dispel the distraction.

During a markedly beautiful moment between Marco and Kogajin, the pirouetting dancers were, although lovely in their own right, another distraction to a scene that could have had greater impact if left to its own merits. The flimsy swords relegated a depiction of an attempt on Marco’s life by an over-zealous ninja to something akin to a Morecambe & Wise sketch. The final impression was of having overreached.

But there were sparks of magic to this production. Perhaps it was the unabated passion of an international cast, the innovative scene changes or sense of cultural collaboration. Marco Polo: An Untold Love Story may not be a great stage triumph worthy of £80 per stall ticket, but it does provide a pleasant evening of theatrical entertainment proving that even small productions can dream big.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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