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Janis Joplin: Full Tilt review at Theatre Royal Stratford East – ‘soaring and wild’

Angie Darcy in Janis Joplin: Full Tilt at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London Photo: Robert Day Angie Darcy in Janis Joplin: Full Tilt at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London Photo: Robert Day
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It’s difficult to put into perspective the impact that Janis Joplin had on the music industry after she burst into public conscious following her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Her brief life was plagued with ill-health and addiction but Joplin was a natural talent, raw and relatively untutored. The queen of psychedelic rock, her voice was new but her sound was embedded in rich tradition of country and blues.

Following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Janis Joplin: Full Tilt celebrates the artist’s life and music through the recreation of one of Joplin’s rock gigs. It’s certainly not a new device but Peter Arnott’s articulate script manages to parallel the ecstasy of overnight success with the crushing isolation that Joplin felt as an artist. It’s an intoxicating mix of emotions, complemented by a bravura performance from Angie Darcy and a band of musicians, who between them capture the sound and soul of Joplin’s music.

Darcy nails Joplin’s Texas twang, soaked in cigarettes and bourbon, but it’s the interpretation of the songs that really impress. From the soaring thrill of Take Another Little Piece of My Heart to the wild, eccentricities of Gershwin’s Summertime, Darcy creates a lively, engaging tribute to the artist and her ethos. Cora Bissett’s direction ensures that the balance of drama to music is never off-kilter and even musical director Harry Ward gets a cameo role. The result is an intelligent, exciting hybrid of tribute act and theatre.

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Exciting fusion of theatre and tribute featuring a thrilling central performance