REVIEW: The Bridges of Madison County (Menier Chocolate Factory)

We are late to the Bridges of Madison County party. Not just because we caught it on the final weekend, and Mummy has only just got round to writing up her thoughts, despite it having closed two weeks ago. But also because, despite Mrs Mummy’s undying love for Meryl Streep, neither of us has ever seen the film. So was our trip to the Menier Chocolate Factory worth the wait? And is there any point in telling anyone about it now?

Given the themes that run through the show, Mummy has decided that a review is better late than never. Even if nobody reads it. As to whether it was worth the wait, Mummy and Mrs Mummy both felt that we may have missed something by not being fans of the film. We also suspected that our personal life experiences may have meant that we weren’t the target demographic for a show that had so many other audience members openly sobbing by the end.

Interestingly, Jason Robert Brown notes in the programme that he has ‘a pretty odd relationship with the source material’, having only seen the first 20 minutes of the film and considering the original novel to be ‘a rather soppy, sloppy love story’. Mummy doesn’t disagree with that assessment of the storyline, which effectively boils down to: Bored housewife meets man. Embarks upon brief but intense affair. Considers leaving family. Decides against it.

Mummy can see why this story would really resonate with anyone who has ever felt trapped in their marriage, experienced an affair or wondered what might have been. But for those of us who identify more with Francesca’s daughter Carolyn, it probably doesn’t quite hit home in the same way. The themes of feeling torn between family and personal happiness will probably feel relevant to any parent. But again, rather than identifying with Francesca, Mummy felt thankful that she is able to have a family and do things for herself. Like spending the evening at the theatre!

Setting aside the imperfections of the story, this was another impressive production from the Menier Chocolate Factory. The attention to detail in the set and direction believably transformed the intimate space into the multiple Iowan locations in which the story takes place. Jason Robert Brown’s typical mixture of musical styles was delivered beautifully by the talented cast, with leading lady Jenna Russell once again giving a masterclass in acting through song. Meanwhile Gillian Kirkpatrick gave an absolutely stand-out performance as nosy neighbour Marge.

Although it was enjoyable enough in places, this is not a show that we would rush back to any time soon (which is just as well given that it has closed). Overall, The Bridges of Madison County can be summed up in the same way as the life of its protagonist: Slow, safe and predicable, with a few flashes of excitement in the middle.

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things)

The Bridges of Madison County ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 13 July to 14 September 2019.