Floyd Collins review at Wilton’s Music Hall, London – ‘immensely powerful’
It is now 20 years since Floyd Collins premiered off-Broadway. After two previous London outings, at the Bridewell in 1999 and again at Southwark Playhouse in 2012, it’s being revived at Wilton’s Music Hall and Jonathan Butterell’s unsettling, insinuating new production confirms it as one of the most thrilling and audacious American chamber musicals of recent times.
Based on the true story of a cave explorer who became trapped and eventually died in Kentucky in 1925, the show is delicately scripted by Tina Landau and scored with haunting melodies by Adam Guettel. The music has a brooding beauty, and it’s stunningly played by a live nine-person band led by Tom Brady.
Butterell’s production is staged on a set of interweaving scaffolding poles and platforms that imaginatively take us deep inside a cave. It achieves the seemingly paradoxical feat of having a momentum fuelled by dread while simultaneously remaining mostly static. It’s a high stakes story – a genuine matter of life and death.
The title character’s journey is strikingly played by Ashley Robinson – a major new discovery. There’s generous support from Samuel Thomas and Rebecca Trehearn as his devoted siblings, with the latter giving a swooningly gorgeous interpretation of the lovely melody Through the Mountains. There’s also valuable contributions from a superb ensemble that features Jack Chissick as Floyd’s father Lee, Sarah Ingram as his stepmother, and Daniel Booroff as a journalist and would-be rescuer.