Pepperland at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh Review

Reviewed by Deborah Mackenzie

Pepperland goes back to 2017 when Liverpool City Council asked American choreographer Mark Morris to create a works celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is acclaimed by many as the best rock and roll album of all time.

The stage is awash with bright and at times clashing colours that takes you back to the 1960s psychedelic days when The Beatles were one of the top names in popular culture.  Costumer Elizabeth Kurzman’s design of brightly coloured miniskirts, pencil thin suits with skinny neckties, made famous by the Beatles captured the era completely.

The dancing is mesmerising, whimsical and witty, seeming effortless as re-emerging groups doing running lifts, dragged behind each other, splits, marching and frequent shoulder hugs. At times I was amazed at the bold movements, that portrayed many changes of the sixties; same sex embraces (stonewall riots 1969) and dancer Lesley Garrison wearing a pair of trousers, commands the stage with her assertive gestures (militant feminists of the 1960s). But as today these are common amongst us it is a good reminder where it started.

The score by Ethan Iverson is motivating; copyright censures prevented the use of much more than a few lines to the original album, but it was reinterpreted into something new. This is played live by a six-piece band, soprano saxophone, trombone, theremin, piano, keyboard and percussion; with lyrics spoken-sung by the baritone Clinton Curtis. Some of the more well-known songs were chosen, With a Little Help from My Friends, When I’m Sixty-Four, Within You Without You, Penny Lane and A Day in the Life; but do not expect a sing a long as these are all reconstructed as mentioned above.

It was a colourful, music filled evening with memories of historical events pulled in through dance. It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea and certainly was not what we were expecting. But putting that all aside, it was uplifting and made you realise how differently people interpret music, lyrics and dance.

Rating: 4/5

For other shows at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh visit or call the box office on 0131 529 6000.

Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9FT | 0131 529 6000

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