PIPPIN | London, Southwark Playhouse

Approximately a dozen men commit suicide every day in the UK, along with four women. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. To tackle this issue, we the audience are offered a spangly hippie-rock musical from 1972 about the life and times of a forgotten European mediaeval prince, extreme self-referential camp, and uproarious humour.

Call it what you like, but this London transfer for the Manchester Hope Mill Theatre production (following rave reviews) is ambitious beyond belief and completely astounding. Stephen Schwartz’ score (more Godspell than Wicked) is as electrifying as ever, with a phenomenal multi-role playing (and magic performing) cast of only ten. Roger O. Hirson’s headcase, meta-theatrical book comes alive with a not-quite-in-the-round staging (Jonathan O’Boyle, William Whelton) and designs (Maeve Black) that evoke a tired travelling circus.

The lead player (Genevieve Nicole) — a Joel Grey Cabaret emcee figure — continues the recent Broadway production’s gender-flipping. Sexy and sinister, she embodies the whole show, alluring and terrifying us with her powerhouse vocal. Jonathan Carlton is heartfelt and genuine as Pippin, with lashings of deadpan humour along his cartoon odyssey to find meaning in life, and a gobsmacking tenor to match.

Four decades on, the original terrifying allusions to the Vietnam War are lost. The unhinged meta-theatre and ramshackle story make for a decidedly weird experience. But amid the wild humour and spectacle, the message is clear: “His life seemed purposeless and flat. Aren’t you glad you don’t feel like that?” Dood-ley-doo.

We’ve got magic to do until 24 March 2018.

The Prickle - About transp