Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time-Gielgud Theatre

It has taken a while but I have finally got to see the National Theatre's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (currently in its third home at the Gielgud Theatre, following a ceiling collapsing earlier in the year).  <<>>

At the play's heart is Christopher Boone (currently played by Graham Butler), a 15 year old who is incredible at maths but has difficulty relating to people, to the world around him - apart from his pet rat, Toby.  Is it autism?  Is it Asperger's?  It's never really made specific, but Graham Butler's performance, full of anxiety and bluntness is excellent.

The most of the supporting cast interchange roles and all provide depth to the play.

The other main star of the show is the staging- the set, the sound, the light, the movement all help us get an insight into the peculiarities of Christopher's mind.  I can't say too much about what happens - Act 1 revolved around the death of a neighbour's dog.  Act 2 follows on from that.....  It all gets very emotionally draining by the end, but in a good way.  And there is a lovely 'aww' moment.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

It is a while since I have seen The Crucible, I think it was a film version some years ago.  I remember studying it at school - but that was even longer ago, still, I was keen to see this new production at The Old Vic.  <<>>

As ever, before I went I had a quick look at the reviews and, for a change, they did not put me off.  However, a string of good reviews does give one high hopes.  Luckily I was not let down (although I was a bit distraught when I read that the running time was three and a half hours - but, Yaël Farber's direction keeps the pace up and you don't notice the hours passing).

Although Richard Armitage's John Proctor is the "bums on seats" factor, the whole cast is great.  Armitage is a brooding presence of a man, brought down by the machinations of a spurned lover.  Anna Madeley is moving as his wife, whose coldness has forced him into the arms of Abigail.  The girls, whether possessed or not, are terrifying!  And all the accusers and accused produce strong performances.  Staged in the round, you feel drawn into the action as the cast move on and off stage through the audience.

Thrilling stuff!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Maria Stuarda - Royal Opera House

It's nearly three weeks since I saw this production at the Opera House, so it is a quick review as things get hazy so quickly these days.

1.  I had never seen the opera before, but had seen and studied the Schiller play.
2.  It was another chance to see Joyce DiDonato as Maria.  Wonderful as ever.  Slight issue with the fact that she was blonde.  I always thought Mary Queen of Scots was a redhead (albeit a wig!).
3.  Carmen Giannattasio as Queen Elizabeth was fantastic.  A great voice, only hampered by a huge frock.  She did, disconcertingly, look a bit Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film!

Great end to the season!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 - Sehnsucht/Schmetterling - Sadlers Wells

It is a long time since I have seen Nederlands Dans Theater 1 at Sadlers Wells.  If I remember it was still in the heady days under the leadership of Jirí Kylián.  Things have obviously moved on with this double bill from Sol León and Paul Lightfoot currently on at Sadlers Wells.  <<>>.

In Sehnsucht the staging is simple, apart from a rotating room at the back of the stage where a couple of dancers stretch and roll about.  (Too much gusset for my taste!)  Musically it's a lot of Beethoven.  I did not get over-excited by the 'trio' at the start.  I found the ensemble choreography more interesting, if not particularly innovative.  You can clearly see the classical roots of the company as well as more contemporary touches.

For Schmetterling the staging was more complex - openings focusing towards a backcloth.  Dance-wise it was much more fragmented than the first piece.  I'm not a great one for whimsy and humour in dance so there were sections that did not ignite me!

I think León and Lightfoot have some issues about gender Sehnsucht most of the dancers are dressed in black trousers and black socks, with torsos bare.  This is for both the men and the women.  They then flip the coin in Schmetterling and have most of the men and women in black dresses and headscarves.  Very confusing!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Ariadne auf Naxos - The Royal Opera House

It's many years since I have seen Ariadne, I think it was a production at ENO in the 1990s so I did not really have much of an idea what to expect.......

The Royal Opera's production directed by Christof Loy is a wonderful event.  <<>> The staging of the Prologue is marvellous - as the lift goes down the whole stage goes up to allow the action to take place in the basement.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such a huge scene shift at the opera house in recent years - very impressive.

Essentially you get two short operas - the very short Prologue and the Opera.

The Prologue had some great action and great singing.  Thomas Allen as the Music Master was his usual excellent self.  Ruxandra Donose gave an impassioned performance as the Composer.  We had hints from some who were to appear in the second part, but they were just hints.

The Opera itself is much more interesting with the mixing of the two opera companies to produce a weird hybrid at the whim of the rich patron.  Karita Mattila sang the role of Ariadne wonderfully.  Jane Archibald threw herself into the role of Zerbinetta with gusto.  Sofia Fomina, Karen Cargill and Kiandra Howarth sounded lovely as the Naiad, Dryad and Echo.  Although we had to wait a long time for him to appear, Roberto Saccà provided us with a full voiced Bacchus.

The ensemble singing was also spot on and the orchestra deserved the rousing applause it received at the end.

A very entertaining evening.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Benvenuto Cellini - English National Opera

As the overture rolled on and the stage (and the front of the stalls) suddenly filled with carnival goers and assorted revellers I was a bit worried I'd stumbled back into the new ENO production of Cosi (sorry, never got round to reviewing this version with its Coney Island setting!).  However, it was merely the start of the Mardi Gras scene of the opening of Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz.

The auditorium was packed, not - I suspect - by the Berlioz fan club - more to see what director Terry Gilliam would make of the opera.  He's worked with ENO before on The Damnation of Faust.  This gave him much more meat into which to sink his teeth - love, murder, mistaken identity, the Pope, carnival - the list of opportunities seems endless.

Gilliam threw everything at the production and most of it worked well.  Big cast, outrageous costumes, huge masks, huge statue, confetti in the auditorium.  And the audience loved it.  Huge ovation for the cast, orchestra and, as last night was the first night, the production team - including Gilliam himself.

Being unfamiliar with the piece I was happily drawn along by the images on stage, however, the orchestra was on great form.  The cast was strong too.  Michael Spyres gave all in the title role as the philandering sculptor.  Corinne Winters, Teresa, sang well as his love interest.  Nicholas Pallesen as Fieramosca (another sculptor and betrothed to Teresa) and Paula Murrihy as Ascanio (Cellini's business manager) provided formidable support.  It is a long time since I have seen Willard White on stage, so it was good to see him as Pope Clement VII.  The Pope's arrival was completely over the top with an enormous costume partly inspired by the Mikado!  The rest of the cast and chorus, as ever, were enthusiastic.  I felt at times that Pavlo Hunka (Giacomo Balducci, the papal exchequer) lacked a bit of power, but had a good tone nonetheless.

And the revelation of the finished statue of Perseus was a great ending.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Powder her Face - English National Opera

On paper is sounded great.  ENO going off site to Ambika P3 to put on Powder Her Face charting "the glamorous rise and seedy fall of the notorious socialite beauty Margaret, Duchess of Argyll". <<>>

However there were drawbacks.  Drawbacks to such an extent I can only give you a limited view of the performance here - I only made it as far as the interval.

It's not that there is anything particularly wrong with the opera by Thomas Adès, it's the performance space.  In a concrete bunker, two floors under the University of Westminster the performance is given an odd resonance with the sound bouncing all over the place.  Worse still is the seating.  Not having access to a seating plan when booking, I think I ended up with the worst seat in the room.  Not only was it high up, but it was in a corner and meant to get any sort of view of what was going on I had to lean forward and twist slightly.  As a result, by the end of Act 1, my back was giving me hell!  Much as I would have liked to carry on and see second half, my stamina deserted me.

Amanda Roocroft as the Duchess relished the role.  She did not hold back at all during the .... ahem ... rude aria!  But the acoustics did none of the cast any favours.

I would see it again, but only somewhere with a bit more comfort and better sightlines!