Half full or half empty?
The cast of 4 create and populate a fantastical world using bags full of cleverly suggestive props, voices, physical tics and a brilliant puppet as our wide-eyed protagonist pursues his unfortunate ravished, almost disembowelled, enslaved lover across continents. He faces down Bulgarians, the army, the Inquisition, fraudsters, priests and the lure of an idyllic Eldorado along the way. His travelling companions help him ponder whether Dr Pangloss's obstinate optimism that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" is actually cobblers or not.
The cast slip effortlessly outside the narrative, adding another layer to the show. The moment of Candide's utter disillusionment is particularly poignant as the actor appears genuinely, personally grief stricken. Her extended sob halts action. Thank heavens for the discipline of the narrator announcing scene intros through a megaphone, holding everything together. Postmodern winks come in the form of a discussion about the use of the word handicapped to describe the uni-limbed black slave Candide meets in Surinam and as actors become audience and critique themselves, branding a particularly short scene "lazy" for the purpose of deftly dissing critics in general.
The story comes to a mixed conclusion but this production leaves Candide cultivating his garden to the sound of Fake Plastic Trees as the rest of the cast tidy up the flurry of discarded props and exeunt quietly, shortly followed by a still hopeful Candide and we're done and dusted. Neat, sweet, inventive and witty - not only did we thoroughly enjoy Square Moon Theatre's Optimism, we did so in comfort. Newsflash, fringers: the Roundhouse Studio is not hot. Winner.
Catch Optimism at the Roundhouse Studio Theatre Monday and Tuesday at 6pm. Camden Fringe runs until 30th August. All tickets £7.50. Check out other Fringe coverage on Londonist.