Review Round Up: Bagdad Cafe, Old Vic Theatre

We round up what critics have had to say about Emma Rice’s production now playing at the Old Vic Theatre.

(c)Steve Tanner

The Upcoming: **** “Socially distancing cannot stop everyone coming together. Hope is something everyone needs, and the performance definitely supplies it.”

The Guardian: **** “It is all outrageously sentimental, too, and yet we find ourselves melting, moved, transported. A riotous cabaret of a production that hails the Old Vic back to business – and show business.”

Culture Whisper: *** “The problem is, beneath this surface level razzle-dazzle it all feels a little empty. Despite following the film loyally scene-by-scene, the characters are portrayed as 2D caricatures between whom no believable emotional ties are forged. As a result, the story feels as flat as the desert surrounding it and will leave many unmoved. For a production pitched as a ‘celebration of togetherness, hope and friendship’, it misses that mark.”

The Arts Desk: *** “What hasn’t yet been achieved in this Old Vic premiere is much narrative heft to go with the abundant heart of an evening that ends with a collective Zoom, a reminder in our fraught times of the collective call-out to community. All that’s needed now is something more of substance.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “Yet as the excellent cast belt out songs in front of a gold curtain, and Sal conjures glitter explosions from coffee pots, it would take a heart of stone to resist the good-natured warmth and fun on offer.”

Exeunt Magazine: “This production is a celebration of friendship and life. It’s also incredibly emotive, and for the duration I’m aware of a swelling feeling lingering in my chest. This emotion overspills in the show’s final throes when, post curtain-call, Nadine Lee comes on stage and shares with us the Bagdad Cafe community choir, their Zoomed faces appearing on a large screen.”

iNews: *** “It’s all about connection and purpose, you see; not by chance is this piece being staged after our past year of lockdown, separation and worry. It is slight, but it slightly won me over by the time Jasmin literally and metaphorically lets down her hair.”

The Telegraph: *** “Emma Rice’s adaptation of the classic film has much to recommend it, but the drama is disappointingly undercooked.”

The Stage: *** “Emma Rice’s adaptation of the 1987 film, starring Sandra Marvin, Patrycja Kujawska and Le Gateau Chocolat, lands askew, despite glimmers of brilliance.”

A Younger Theatre: **** “Theatre is back and the magic is alive and well in another visual masterpiece from Emma Rice.”

Broadway World: **** “There are a few neat magic tricks and visual gags. The set and lighting are also appropriately understated. In fact, nothing about this show is really fancy, but together it adds up to something rather like a warm hug to welcome you back into the theatre.”

The Times: **** “A whimsical arthouse film becomes almost a musical. The German director Percy Adlon’s 1987 movie about two women who strike up a friendship at a scruffy diner-cum-motel in the Mojave Desert has acquired cult status over the past three decades. If you’re a fan you’ll be delighted to hear that Emma Rice’s company, Wise Children, captures the atmosphere of the original and adds some sparkle of its own.”

Theatre Weekly: **** “Emma Rice’s direction is as bold and exciting as you’d expect from a director of her calibre; the narrative is clear and affecting, but she isn’t afraid to pull away for a while to take a peek at some of the other residents of the Bagdad Café and Motel. She brings out the best in every performer, using simple movement pieces to outline and illustrate the themes of togetherness in the show, focusing on the joy and light in the community above the darkness.”

Bagdad Cafe continues to play at the Old Vic Theatre until the 21st August.

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