Review: The King and I at The Bristol Hippodrome

Review: The King and I at The Bristol Hippodrome

Posted on: 30 Mar 2023

As I got out of the taxi in front of The Bristol Hippodrome with my friend to queue up in the torrential rain, I was unsure of what to expect from this production of “The King and I”. It did not take long to realise that this was a work of art and beauty and would recommend anyone to see it.


There could be no better place than The Bristol Hippodrome to provide elegant and ornate surroundings in which to exhibit such a wonderful musical. A musical which hits home today just as significantly as it did in its premiere in 1951.



The King and I - Bristol Hippodrome

The first scene set the foundation for the rest of the show, where Anna is arriving from Singapore to Siam. The boat she arrives on is ornate and perfectly crafted, leaving the viewers wondering if the set creators will be able to keep up this level of detail throughout the production. They did not disappoint.


The musical touches on modern themes where an autocratic King is treated as an equal by an exceptional woman albeit of a quite ordinary status. Watching the arm wrestle between these two (played by the superb Darren Lee and Helen George) ties into lots of the social themes we see in society today. These themes become more powerful as the characters are all flawed which makes them even more real, in an age of airbrushed social media and vanity posting it serves as a welcome refreshment.


Not only is the set design excellent but the singing and choreography are also presented in an impressive fashion. When added to the costumes the impact on the audience (at least me) was stunning.


Both the lead roles of the King and Anna are believable and hard-hitting while also being funny and humble. Both roles are at times introspective and remind us that no matter our status we all have narratives in our minds that we must wrestle with.


Each of the recurring jokes (there are a few) is weaved throughout the performance, bringing comedic relief to tense situations. The audience belly laughed multiple times throughout the production, as the comedy is scattered throughout the production to provide comic relief at unexpected junctures.

The King and I - Bristol Hippodrome

Not only were the lead roles superb and real, but the characters supporting the leads all also played their part superbly with a special mention to Marienella Phillips (playing Tuptim) who had a breath-taking solo early on in the play as she lamented that she was in love with a man that was not the King.


The pace of the production was excellent, and the 3 hours start to finish time (including interval) seemed about right without having to rush or stretch any part of the story to more or less than was required.


In summary, this classic has been performed to its outstanding best, with costume, singing, set, lighting and acting all coming together to make a hard-hitting and poignant musical that hits the mark on several fronts.


I came away from the musical not really feeling as if I had seen a musical at all, but rather a cultural masterpiece that I enjoyed thoroughly. Highly recommend.


The King and I is at The Bristol Hippodrome until 1st April 2023

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Article by:

Gareth Owen

Gareth is director of Raw Space Coworking on Gloucester Road and loves to write about the city’s art and culture.