The Artist is a silent(ish) stage spectacular

The Artist, Theatre Royal Plymouth ****

SHHHHH! It's oh so quiet on stage at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this week as the world premiere of the stage production of The Artist whisks audiences away to a bygone era.

This monochrome marvel is an adaptation of the silent movie, which took the world by storm in 2011, and likewise this production is really puttin' on the style with a homage to the golden age of cinema.

For anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning film of the same name - you can't help but think 'how is that going to work on stage?' And with this sense of intrigue I set off to the TRP to be delighted by this modern take on iconic times.

Set when silent movies were making way for 'The Talkies' and sound was the next big thing, The Artist has been co-produced by TRP and the McOnie Company and is based on Michel Hazanavicius' film following the tale of 1920s heart throb George Valentin - the silent movie star who is the name on everyone's lips.

The show opens to George's latest smash film wowing Hollywood while wannabe star Peppy Miller is striving to break into the chorus line.

But this is a girl with self-belief and big dreams and the two bond when George comes to her rescue as an early mistake sees her nearly thrown off set.

While the young actress learns to stand up for herself and find her voice, George struggles with his place in the world as all he knows derails around him. As Peppy's star is rising George's, on the other hand, is waning as he struggles to cope with the pace of change.

Briana Craig as Peppy put on a commanding performance with true elegance and charisma and shines as the golden starlet packing a punch and plenty of pep.

Robbie Fairchild, as George, brings Drew McOnie's sweeping choreography wonderfully before us making everything look effortless and second-nature and Gary Wilmot takes on the role of film producer Al Zimmer with capable hands.

Helping pull the show together, for me, was Tiffany Graves who is excellent as press gossip girl Gertie Gams whose enthusiasm boils over and Uggie the dog, brought to life by Thomas Walton, will have won many hearts as George's ever faithful friend who races around the stage and is never far from the action or a joke.

The whole cast are a joy but one more name check for our own Torquay star Lily Laight in the ensemble as it's so great to see her stylishly continuing with great things in the world she loves.

This show is strikingly something different. Beautiful art deco inspired designs frame the stage with minimal and clever sets opening up and closing in on action as if we are focusing the camera lens. It has a crispness and flow which draws you in and despite not having an interval did not drag.

As sound takes over songs such as Sing Sing Sing, Fascinating Rhythms and It Don't Mean a Thing (If You Ain't Got That Swing) backed up by original music by Simon Hale give the show a more celebrational musical feel.

The gunshot moment lacked some drama, for me, but there are many brilliant parts. The head in the clouds section is delightful with dancers dressed in white fluffy ensembles floating about. The big screen ending and the impact of sound taking over also makes quite an impression.

Mental health messages and the power of talking and how we all deal with the different chapters in our life are evident.

It's also about women claiming their place in the world. Sadly as Peppy admits: 'I'll have to be twice as good as you to get half as far', I was struck by the realisation that while technology may have moved along at a startling rate and has the world reeling at times, not enough has changed in this respect, with equal pay and opportunities still something to be fought for by so many in 2024.

Nobody can stop change and sometimes you've just got to jump right in - that's exactly what TRP are doing with this new production and it's something to really shout about - a silent(ish) stage spectacular!

The Artist is on at Plymouth's Theatre Royal until May 25.