Review of JANIS JOPLIN – FULL-TILT – Awarded Four Stars ****

Angie Darcy 4. Photo credit Robert Day

Following acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh festival Janis Joplin: Full Tilt a theatrical tribute to one of rock’s most dynamic performers, deservedly comes to London.

Often feeling very much like a live concert, the show uses the singer’s greatest hits to chart her rise from a small-town rebellious outsider to rock sensation. This is much more than a ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ tribute to Joplin. Often based on Joplin’s own words, Peter Arnott’s play spews out impassioned monologues that often feel they like are streams of consciousness relating to each of singer’s heartfelt numbers. Openly bi-sexual and a supporter of Black rights, Joplin never fears to rock the political boat,“  I’m the stone, your the window!” she rages. With weight problems and bad skin, Joplin breaks the mold as a star as she tells the audience she is “No f***ing Audrey Hepburn!” and reveals that every night on stage she reinvents as herself as her sexy alter ego Pearl.

Winner of Best Female Performance 2014 in the Musical Theatre Network Awards, Angie Darcy as Joplin has a phenomenal voice and inhabits her character with depth. She explores her protagonist’s emotional isolation, insecurities and battles with addiction with utter conviction. Joplin also reflects that timing has contributed to her success, with her break through happening in the new era of counter culture rock rebels like Jim Morrison and Jimi HendrixHer untimely death in October 1970 came soon after Hendrix’s but this show is about her living life to the full and is ultimately celebratory.

Darcy’s powerhouse performances of Joplin’s A Piece of My Heart and Cry Baby are expertly balanced with the gentle hypnotic pychedelia of Summertime, and she is superbly supported by an outstanding band. Cora Bissett’s steady direction ensures the energy never lets up, and has the audience dancing in the aisles for the finale.

Janis Joplin: Full Tilt does more than justice to Joplin’legacy more than 40 years after her death. With the rise in popularity of jukebox shows like Jersey Boys and Beautiful aimed at the baby boomers generation, this show certainly has the potential become yet another smash hit for this genre.

This show will will take a piece of your heart. Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, London, E15 1BN. Playing  until 5th March 2016.

Review by Oliver Valentine.

Photo Credit Robert Day.

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