Review: Identical. Nottingham Playhouse. Produced by Kenny Wax.

Identical, Nottingham Playhouse

2nd August 2022

Identical brings double trouble fun to Nottingham Playhouse

Familiar to most as the incarnation of the 1998 Parent Trap film featuring Lindsay Lohan, Kenny Wax’s charming production of Identical goes back to the story’s roots. Das Doppelte Lottchen is the title of Erich Kästner’s 1949 novel in which twin girls, previously unaware of the others existence, meet at summer camp and conspire to switch places when returning home.

As in the original novel, the 10-year-old twins Lisa and Lottie are raised in Munich and Vienna respectively, although not a lot points to that location-wise on the Nottingham Playhouse stage.

Directed by Trevor Nunn, the show gets off to a strong start with ensemble number “In the Summer”, preparing us for the levels of mischief these twins – played by Eden and Emme Patrick on press night – can cause.

Some of the songs, music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, could be considered saccharine but the cast rein it in to be sweet rather than sickly.  This is especially well done by Emily Tierney who plays the twins’ mother, Lisalotte, with grace through the most sentimental of numbers.

Equally elegant Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson undoubtedly gets the best solo as ambitious ballerina Irene Gerlach, who’s engaged to the twins’ father Johan (James Darch) and features in Lottie’s nightmare with the strikingly dark “Take One or the Other”. Her ballet dancing and vocals make for the two most engrossing scenes of the show as she’s firmly positioned –perhaps unjustly- as the fearsome villain.

The real villain may be Johan who certainly won’t be winning Father of the Year, but Darch’s charisma spares him from too much criticism of his terrible parenting and still leaves the audience rooting for the family’s reunited happy ending.

The twins are of course integral to the audience reaction, and Eden and Emme are fantastic, bringing humour and feeling in equal measure. They are a delight on stage, both together and plotting sibling comradery or while individually developing touching relationships with their estranged parents.

Three sets of twins have been cast for the show; Kyla and Nicole Fox and Savannah and Sienna Robinson, will also be making their stage debuts in the role.

The crowning glory of the show is the magnificent set. Thanks to set designer Robert Jones, video designer Douglas O’Connell and lighting designer Johanna Town, the audience is transported between locations, from countryside to city, in the blink of an eye. From the beginning, what appear to be delicately painted backdrops immerse the audience in the idyllic lakeside camp, complete with grass waving gently in the breeze. Every part of the stage is optimised throughout the production; sections are added to the middle to add depth, sides are brought in to make the space smaller; every scenario is covered in some of the most detailed sets.

The only hindrance to the show is the plot itself; think about the unconventional custody arrangements for more than a moment between songs and incredulity quickly overpowers the sentiment. You should definitely do your best to put that aside and enjoy this double trouble performance before it moves onto The Lowry on 14th August.

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