Share |
Feb 24th

An Inspector Calls - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Lousie Winter 23rd February 2016

Inspector Calls poster

The core message of Priestly’s play, that of collective social responsibility, seems evermore relevant. First produced 24 years ago at the National Theatre, Stephen Daldry’s touring production was well received last night.

Using the device and style of a detective thriller it is fundamentally a philosophical play about social conscience, demonstrating how one person’s behaviour can have significant and even devastating consequences. The drama unfolds in stages as Inspector Goole arrives in the middle of a celebration and questions each member of the Birling family in turn as to their connection with a young woman who has committed suicide. Liam Brennan as Goole is suitably tenacious and commanding, gradually coercing each character to admit the truth and forcing them to consider their past actions and motivation.

An Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

Set and staging are most effective with an air of surrealism. The mini-sized lopsided house with tiny door and windows, perched high on stilts, contains the drawing room within which the Birling family are crammed toasting Shelia and Gerald engagement. This enclosed, too-small space gives a sense of discomfort and awkwardness, signifying the narrow, stifling middle-class conventions by which the family are all bound. The eventual throwing open of the front and sides of the house to expose the bright, sumptuous interior luminous among the bleak blitzed surroundings start the Inspector's exposure of the characters' secrets and misdemeanours.

Priestly’s dense text is key and Daldry’s production keeps this paramount not allowing any other elements to detract from this. Stephen Warbeck’s music is used sparingly to underline key dramatic moments and to heighten tension only. Daldry’s manipulation of time within the play: the events set in 1912, the 1940’s attired ‘Supernumeraries’ to witness the Birling family’s disclosures, and the moments where the audience is addressed, move the physical time around so as to place the central message in both the past and present.

AN Inspector Calls Mark Douet

image copyright Mark Douet

The cast are equally sharp and excellent, Caroline Wildi and Katherine Jack as Sybil and Sheila Birling are perfect. Wildi has some of the most amusing moments and the decline from her lofty, regal, and immaculate image to that of her sitting in the gutter disarrayed and dishevelled is symbolic of the collapse of the moral fibre of her character and all the family. Geoff Lesley as Arthur Birling is suitably gruff and inflexible, almost completely refusing to admit he has done anything improper. Hamish Riddle is superb as Eric Birling, his nervous energy, near hysteria and awkwardness perfectly pitched. Matthew Douglas plays with aplomb the falsely jocular and loud fiancé Gerald Croft and the realisation of the damage his past behaviour has done leaves him momentarily lost; only momentarily though. It is Sheila and Eric who you feel may have learned some type of lesson and who may go on to be better human beings. They are the only redeeming characters. However, the audience don’t escape. The play halts. The audience is addressed directly: think of and care about others instead of focussing on material possessions, power, and status. A message for our times and as pertinent as ever.

Priestly's theme is timeless. Daldry's production is full of suspense, thrill and anticipation.

At MK theatre until Sat 27th February

Tickets from

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/an-inspector-calls/milton-keynes-theatre/ 

0844 871 7652

booking fee applies

 

 

Feb 10th

Gangsta Granny - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

 Reviewed by Louise Winter 9th February 2016 

Gansta poster

The phenomenal success of David Walliams as an author looks set to continue with the adaptation of several of his books into TV productions and now this theatre production by The Birmingham Stage Company. On tour throughout 2016 this adaptation will win the hearts of both children and adults.

11 year old Ben, from whose perspective the story is told, is SO bored of having to visit his Granny’s every Friday while his Strictly-obsessed parents go to their dancing sessions. Having failed to realise their own dreams of becoming professional dancers, Ben’s parents thrust their desires onto Ben whose ambition of becoming a plumber is met with despair and disbelief and in an attempt to keep the peace Ben agrees to take part in a dance competition which mixed consequences.

Despite being bored with visits to Granny, games of scrabble and the interminable variations of cabbage based recipes, Ben is polite, well-mannered and obedient; he’s a good boy – not spoilt or rude and this is a clear message to the target audience.

Gangsta Granny family

image copyright Matk Douet

The pace of the story picks up rapidly when Ben comes across jewels hidden at Granny’s and learns that she was an international thief in her younger days. This captures Ben’s imagination and suddenly Granny is the most interesting and exciting person he knows. Obviously, Granny now believes that stealing is wrong and only ever committed her crimes for the thrill of it and not for the money, although if this is trying to carefully tread a moral line I'm not sure it works. When Ben learns that Granny never managed to acheive her ultimate dream-heist of stealing the crown jewels he sets his mind to masterminding the plan using his plumbing knowledge of the drainage systems of central London. 

Sharp adaptation and direction from Neil Foster, economical and inventive staging by Jacqueline Trousdale and Jason Taylor’s lighting combine to create dynamic story-telling superbly delivered by a small but talented cast who perform a multitude of genuinely funny characters.

Almost every actor plays at least two parts. Benedict Martin as Dad and Mr Parker, the fabulous Neighbourhood Watch obsessive, who is the source of numerous laugh out loud moments and a great favourite with the audience. Umar Mailk as Raj and Flavio has a great comic turn, particularly as the camply extrovert dancer giving the audience some panto-style moments during the competition scene. Alison Fitzjohn is on stage almost constantly as a whole host of characters including a police officer, matron and dance judge; she is a standout born entertainer. Mum, played by Laura Girling, is suitably self-centred as are both parents. Girling perhaps misses some of the comic opportunities as the Queen but to be fair there had been a changing around of cast. Usual lead Gilly Tompkins had been replaced by Louise Bailey as Granny. Bailey was super and makes the most of all her lines and characterisation. She's the source of much amusement among the younger members of the audience with her cabbage diet induced trumping bottom although my eight year old companion was unconvinced there was enough of this; apparently there is a deal more in the book. Goes to show you can’t please everyone when it comes to toilet humour! 

Ashley Cousins as Ben is the most fleshed out character. Cousins does a great job of portraying the initial frustration and sudden exuberance of a young boy who, though at first hating to stay with Granny eventually can’t wait to see her and join her for adventure. He is credible, identifiable and relatable to the younger members of the audience despite being several years older.  

Gangsta Granny and Ben

There are some lovely moments and scenes, the ‘superfast’ mobility scooter, wetsuits and snorkels donned to traverse the Thames and scale sewage pipes – more references to crowd pleasing bottom related dialogue, the poignancy of Granny’s ‘confession’ and her final departure.

Gansta Granny holds a central message which is creatively told and far from saccharine or patronising. It’s a fairly subtle depiction of some of the issues surrounding the perception of ageing, and the experiences of loneliness, death and loss; both adults and children were in tears at the end and despite the upbeat finale of effusive dancing and singing the sense of sadness did remain. My young companion commented on the way home ‘everyone is important’ and ‘old people aren’t boring’, asking me if I could remember when my grandparents died and speaking about how he might feel when his own nanas and grandads die. These were the thoughts that were running through my mind too. That these where what remained from the show for both of us, despite a forty year age gap, is telling and a testament to this production. 

This is a fun yarn, with a valuable message which perhaps helps children grow up just a little bit. Highly recommended! 

Two shows a day at Milton Keynes until 13 February and then on tour until December 2016. For times and bookings visit http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/gangsta-granny/milton-keynes-theatre/

For full details of all theatre dates visit http://www.birminghamstage.com/shows/gangsta-granny-by-david-walliams-comes-to-the-stage/tour-info

Feb 2nd

Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Priscilla Tour 2016 

Reviewed by Alison Smith

On a damp, dreary Monday evening in February in Milton Keynes, what better way to lift the spirits than to see the outrageously entertaining Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. From the outset the audience is catapulted into the zany world of a bunch of social misfits, drag queens and transvestites on a journey through the Australian desert, literally and figuratively. Tick (Mitzi Mitosis), a drag queen, is travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform in the casino of his estranged wife and, importantly, to meet his son. His two travelling companions are Adam (Felicia Jollygoodfellow) and Bernadette Basinger. The mode of transport? A bus, christened Priscilla.

Divas and cast Priscilla

Experiences through bizarre, and sometimes cruel, encounters with locals such as Bob the mechanic and his Thai bride lead to self-knowledge and the realisation that there is a place in the world for everyone whatever their sexuality, colour or size. The story line is uplifting and compassionate towards people who are not main stream, but what captivates  the audience in the musical is the glitz and the glamour from the wigs, the colours, the make-up, the ridiculous costumes, the shoes, but most importantly, the songs: I Will Survive,and What's Love Got to do With It, are the most remarkable, sung with passion and energy. The Divas are wonderful, and descend on the stage like singing angels, albeit fesity and sexy angels. The band, under the musical directof Matthew Loughran, has great musicality. 

Priscilla Mitzi

The three leading men Mitzi (Jason Donovan), Adam/Felicia ( Adam Bailey)  and Bernadette (Simon Green) perform their roles with joy, exuberance and  humour. Simon Green is exceptionally talented and  plays his role of Bernadette with depth of feeling and sensitivity. The contrast with Felicia is notable; he is young, spoilt and self-centred - always aiming to be top dog. Mitzi, less outwardly energetic than his companions, has an air of resigned acceptance of his persona. This trio are supported by a wonderfully step-perfect, energetic cast with certificates in hip swivelling and thrusting, but who are all also perfectly in harmony and with great lung capacity.

This is a song and dance bonanza, frivolous and fun. Who would have thought that jocks in frocks on a rock could give so much joy?


Priscilla,Queen of the Desert Plays Milton Keynes Theatre until 6th February

 

http://www.atgtickets.com

Bookings 0844 871 7652

Booking fees apply

 Images courtesy of Milton Keynes Theatre

 

Jan 27th

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

mbsb

There are many excellent versions of the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and Bourne’s ballet is no exception. He introduces a gothic atmosphere through supernatural elements, dark and picturesque opulence and melodramatic devices. The story is not just a love story; the story is a battle between good and evil. 

Bourne’s variation spans from the 1890s – the year of the ballet’s first performance in St Petersburg - to the modern day. Princess Aurora is a long-awaited child; in fact it is Carabosse, a fairy of the dark arts, who has facilitated the arrival of the child. However, Aurora’s parents, King Benedict and Queen Eleanora, are not grateful enough to Carabosse and at Aurora’s christening, while six of the fairy godmothers bestow gifts such as passion, spirit and temperament on the child, the wicked fairy curses the baby and condemns her to die from pricking her finger. Count Lilac (a vampire) can only reduce the spell to a 100 year sleep. 

sb

The years pass and the wilful, capricious baby – the puppet baby is the joy of the 1st Act – turns into a wilful, capricious 21-year-old of the Edwardian era.  Aurora is courted by Leo, the palace gardener, but also has eyes for handsome, sexy Caradoc, the evil son of the wicked fairy Carabosse. Caradoc gives Aurora a black rose and it is a thorn from this rose which results in the long sleep. Leo can awaken Aurora after a100 years because he has become a vampire after being bitten by Lilac. 

The span of time and place in Sleeping Beauty enables Bourne to choreograph a variety of dance styles – the solo dances of the fairies, Aurora’s barefoot Isadora Duncan sequence, the sleepwalking scene, the Edwardian tennis match, the pas de deux of Caradoc and Aurora,  – and each era’s dances have a  wonderful naturalness to them. The dancers are physically and musically perfect, full of vitality and charm; leaps and steps echo Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music flawlessly. Ashley Shaw, is out-standing in her role of Aurora; her movements sinuous and fluid, her interpretation of joy and sorrow exceptional. Tom Clark excells as Carabosse and Caradoc – a dark ,menacing figure who fills the stage with foreboding. 

The designer Lez Brotherston delights the audience with the stage settings – the full moon, the fairies magically weightless entrance on a conveyor belt, the enchanted forest – and through the richness of the costumes, from embroidered brocades to soft linens to delicate chiffons and the use of a whole gamut of colours from clashing pastels and greys and blues to  garish red and soft rose pink. Visually, Sleeping Beauty is a masterpiece. 

 However, I must finish on the one negative note. That is the lack of an orchestra. Although the recorded music filled the theatre and was masterfully edited, a live orchestra would have added another dimension to this entrancing ballet. 

Plays Milton Keynes Theatre until 30th Jan and then on tour

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/matthew-bournes-sleeping-beauty/milton-keynes-theatre/

Bookings 0844 871 7652

Booking fees apply

 

 

 

Dec 8th

Aladdin - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed 8th December 2015  

panto poster

In old Peking a poor, love-struck boy, Aladdin, is persuaded by a wicked sorcerer to retrieve a magic lamp from a cave, but Aladdin becomes entrapped. Eventually, with the help of the Genie of the Magic Ring, Aladdin escapes his terrible fate.The old lamp is being polished by Aladdin’s mother when another, stronger genie, the Genie of the Lamp appears and all the family’s problems are resolved in a flash. Happy-ever-after ensues.

These are the bare-bones of the 2015 Aladdin pantomime at MK Theatre but that dry legend is a scenario very different from the entrancing world of ‘Chineseness’ and lavishness we are presented with.The stage is decorated in red, the Chinese lucky colour, with dragons and glitter. The costumes (fantastic headwear), in vibrant oranges, golds, purples and blues, echo the splendour. The Citizens of Peking are excellent dancers, adding glamour and movement; the Juveniles, faultless in their routines, fill the stage with singing and dancing. Princess Jasmine is a story-book princess, young and beautiful.The evil magician is just evil enough to reap ‘boos’ from the audience, yet not to scare the younger children out of their seats. PC Pong excels in his role as the incompetent policeman. And the special effects – fountains of fire, a flying carpet, a balloon escapologist, laundry machines which shrink PC Pong, an elephant- size human elephant – make the pantomime exceptional and unforgettable. 

Aladdin 1

photo credit Barry Rivett

Widow Twankey, played by Gary Wilmot, Aladdin and Wishee Washee’s mother, dominates the show. In ridiculous dresses, in marvellous voice, in command of the whole stage, Gary Wilmot charms the audience. He has a first-rate script with some of the best puns and double entendres. I also enjoyed immensely the word perfect, wordplay routine ‘Who’, ‘What’ ‘I don’t know’, between Widow Twankey, Aladdin,(Ben Adams) and Wishee Washee, (Kev Orkian). The brothers are excellently portrayed. Aladdin sings well, looks  handsome and saved the show from some interesting' side-stepping' by some members of the cast. Wishee Washee, the gauche brother, is the seed for much laughter.

Aladdin 3

photo credit Barry Rivett

Are there any weak points?  In my opinion the two genies are not magical. Wayne Sleep's (Genie of the Ring) talent is his tap dancing to the Irving Berlin song, ‘Putting on the Ritz’, certainly not in his speaking. Priscilla Presley (Genie of the Lamp) should have over-acted in her role: she showed little vitality or enthusiasm.

But their performances do not detract from the over-riding joyful feeling this pantomine brings; MK Theatre's  Aladdin has the necessary ingredients for a fun-filled theatre trip for all the family – splendour, lights, music and jokes, but above all laughter from curtain up to curtain down.

Aladdin plays MK Theatre until 10th January 2016 

Bookings 0844 871 7652

 

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows 

 

booking fee applies 

Dec 7th

Aladdin, Theatre Royal, Nottingham

By GRAHAM CLARK

There is nothing like going into a theatre to hear the noise all the excited children make like when it's pantomime time.

 The Nottingham panto this year stars Christopher Biggins as Widow Twankey, Simon Webbe as Aladdin and Ben Nickless as Wishee Washee. It raised a few eyebrows when Simon Webb was cast to star as Aladdin: the star is better known as being a member of the pop group, Blue and latterly as being on I'm A Celebritory and of course runner up on Strictly. I need not have worried as he took to the role with charm, humour and of course he can sing and dance.

Christopher Biggins is a natural and he has settled into being the Dame in the panto very well, his rapport with the children and the grown ups was spontaneous and infectious.

 Ben Nickless is part Billy Pearce and part Joe Pasquale, he has some great one liners in the panto and his impressions range from Alan Carr to Kevin Webster from Coronation Street! His cheeky chappy persona won him many new fans in the audience.

The theatre is celebrating its 150th birthday so what a good idea it was for Biggins to make his entrance out of a huge birthday cake with the figures 150 on it. The special effects start within 10 minutes of the curtain going up: a huge slippery serpent weaves its way across the stage.  In the second half Webb travels on a magic carpet which comes out into the audience.

The costumes are as colourful and extravagant as you would expect. Whilst the dancers along with the younger dancers add a touch of youthfulness to the proceedings.

There is the Genie of the Lamp too who rises out of the side of the stage.

Keeping the music in the show up to date the cast perform the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars track, Uptown Funk whilst there are two One Direction songs included too. What might have been a new song to most of the audience, the Stevie Wonder track, Another Star worked well as the first half concluded in The Cave of Wonders.

James Barron is an old hand at playing baddies in the panto so he plays Abanazar with ease, he is menacing and convincing. Emilie Du Leslay plays Princes Jasmine with innocence.

Being in the pop group Blue is the perfect excuse for their biggest hit, One Love to be performed by Simon Webb.  

The show is fast paced, no scene goes on too long so that the younger members of the audience get bored. This is a panto for all and the smiling faces that I saw when leaving the theatre said it all. Entertaining, uplifting and a real tonic for any winter blues. 

Highly enjoyable.

Runs until Sunday 10 January 2015.

Tickets from: www.trch.co.uk

 

Nov 24th

The Last Tango - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed 23rd November 2015

LT poster

A wonderfully clever set, atmospheric lighting, impressive choreography, choice music and captivating singing, highlight the talents of the Argentine Tango masters, Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone. The applause before their first dance showed the enthusiasm of the audience for this dance duo and The Last Tango did not disappoint.

The story is simple – a mere instrument to show off their dancing expertise. Rummaging through long forgotten belongings in the attic, packing a suitcase to take on the next stage of his life, George (Teddy Kempner) rediscovers his past. His memories are rekindled and translated into dance by Flavia, Vincent and the ensemble. There is passion and heartbreak, the melancholy of Autumn Leaves tugs at the heart strings,and fun and laughter, but above all between two people a love which survives the torments of life.

The story begins in the thirties; the costumes (Vicky Gill) reflect the age, its conservatism and modesty, but the journey across the years to the last, unforgettable tango is filled with a variety of dress and  dancing styles each sparked by a treasured object George has found – a trilby, a glove, a photo.However, the technically perfect vignettes danced by Flavia and Vincent are not mirrored by the ensemble. I found the men clumsy; they seemed unfeeling towards their partners and lifting them seemed at times too much of an effort. The difference must lie in the relationship between the dance partners. It is clear that Vincent treasures Flavia; his concern is to their partnership not his own ability. The men in the ensemble seem to have a more selfish attitude – look at me and how I dance. 

The last dance of Flavia and Vincent, the last tango of the title, is a dazzling, technically impressive dance with perfect synchronisation of two bodies. In their close embrace we see passion and sensuality; the intimacy of the couple, their contact, both physical and emotional, was moving. And the speed of the steps especially the  ganchos, ochos and patadas was breathtaking. In her silver sheath of a dress Flavia moved effortlessly and she and Vincent were as one in their movements. This tango was a fitting last tribute to their partnership, but most of all to their remarkable talent as dancers.

Plays MK Theatre until Saturday 28th November

Bookings 0844 871 7652

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows

Nov 17th

The Shawshank Redemption - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 16th November 2015

Shawshank poster

Based on Stephen King’s 1984 novella RIta Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption the 1994 film was initially regarded as a box office flop despite receiving seven Oscar nominations and wide critical acclaim. Now the Shawshank Redemption is a firm fixture at the top of IMdB’s all-time great films. Writers Dave Johns and Owen O’Neill first adapted it for the stage in 2009. It was rewritten for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival and this Bill Kenwright production is its third transformation on tour until the end of the month and featuring two very well-known actors, Ian Kelsey as Andy Dufresne and Patrick Robinson as Ellis ‘Red’ Redding. 

Robinson is well cast as Red, definitely the major and most enigmatic part but you have to wait until the very end to get any real sense of his underlying character in his excellently delivered soliloquy. Kelsey does well with what he’s been given by the writers and director David Esbjornson but it doesn't feel to be enough and he has limited opportunity to show the subtleties or nuances of Dufresne’s personality. The development of the unlikely friendship between these characters, so critical to the story, does not appear to be central to this adaptation. 

There are short scenes of threat, strong violence, and despair but they are momentary and the cast and audience soon move on thus the overall atmosphere is unfortunately rather flat throughout. This is not helped by the use of a wide array of mostly upbeat music for the numerous scene changes which interrupt the cohesiveness of the timeline. Indeed the time span of the film is twenty years but this passing of time is not in evidence in the play apart from a couple of conversational references.  There doesn't seem to be any real desire for insight into the true desperation of those wrongly accused or the depth of the tension that we know exists inside the harshest prisons. This lessens the overall impact of the story.

I found the script unnecessarily wordy and often clichéd; the cast fighting for space to speak within the dialogue. This,and the fact that there appeared to be some issues over the sound quality last night, meant passages of dialogue were lost, particularly in the first half. However, the cast are strong throughout and do an excellent job with their roles and dialogue. The malevolence of Warden Stammas (Owen O’Neill), is palpable and the power and influence he holds over the inmates and guards is effectively depicted by O’Neill. Guard Hadley (Joe Reisig), is foreboding on stage as a huge powerful presence. Prisoners Bogs Diamond (Kevin Mathurin) and Rooster (Leigh Jones) are primarily deeply unpleasant characters – violent rapists who intimidate and rule through fear but here they veer towards caricature on occasion. Brooksie who runs the library, played by Ian Barritt, is a key player in the film but this role is reduced here. The audience doesn’t really get to know him and therefore his suicide once he is forced back into the society he has been apart from for most of his life lacks emotional impact. Excellent as young Tommy Williams is George Evans who portrays well the bluff and bluster of a young man trying to stand up for himself and his murder-disguised-as-suicide is distressing.

Overall the acting is first class, the direction though feels a little rushed.

 

Plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 21st November

Bookings 0844 871 7652

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-shawshank-redemption/milton-keynes-theatre/

 

Nov 14th

Saul - Glyndebourne on Tour - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 13th November 2015

Saul Poster

Director Barrie Kosksy says ‘Triumph, joy, madness, death, battle, jealousy, rage. What more do you want at a night at the opera?’ Add in sadness, devastation, love, passion and a touch of the gruesome and you are getting near the scope of this production. This has to be the most exhilaratingly exciting Glyndebourne production of recent years. No emotion or sense is left untouched. It is utterly stupendous.

One of the most dramatic stories from the Old Testament, Handel’s version as an oratorio is influenced by King Lear and that is in evidence. Not originally written to be staged this is a gift for Kosky who, along with designer Katrin Lea Tag and choreographers Silvano Marraffa and Merry Holden, is free to create his own world of physical, dynamic direction resulting in drama on a massive scale both musically and visually.

Glyndebourne’s chorus at its best here. Kosky integrates them directly into the storyline giving them the same role as that of a Greek chorus where they become commentator, conscience and judge. Here there is direct interplay between the principals, acting skills brought to the fore. Witty touches to costumes, hair and make-up combined with innovative, contemporary, quirky choreography give much delight to the audience. Conductor Laurence Cummings whips the orchestra along but the pacing of Handel’s score is respected and he keeps the orchestra and on stage performers in perfect harmony throughout.

Kosky has focussed first and foremost on the man rather than the universal story; a man reacting to his unfolding situation and circumstances so we have a story and performance of humanity, or seemingly lack of on occasion. No narrow portrayal here but a powerful and superbly nuanced performance by Henry Waddington who encompasses the full range of extreme emotion. He is wonderful – a true force on stage. Saul’s disintegration is complete and punishing to witness. As the story unfolds and despair permeates, the staging moves from the high colour, brightly lit exuberance of Part 1 to Part II’s monochromatic, candlelit, shadowy atmosphere. Full credit to Joachim Klein for lighting this production so ingeniously.

Saul Richard Hubert Smith

image Richard Hart Smith

David, the catalyst for Saul’s decline is pitched perfectly by Christopher Ainslie, his countertenor contrasting with Waddington’s rumbling Bass-Baritone. O Lord, Whose Mercies Numberless from David attempting to placate Saul is stunning. David’s almost fragile naivety here is perfectly portrayed through Handel’s measured composition and Ainslie’s still, understated delivery. All performances are outstanding; exceptionally so, Benjamin Hulett as Jonathan, Sarah Tynan and Anna Devin as Merab and Michal respectively.

Saul David Jonathan Richard Hubert Smith

image Richard Hart Smith 

This is an epic production, a story of individuals, a family and a nation. At times harrowing, at others joyful but throughout, exciting, engaging and thoroughly confident. A superbly assured and dynamic production and utterly splendid.

Glyndebourne plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14th November then continuing on tour.

http://www.glyndebourne.com/tickets-and-whats-on/our-seasons/tour-2015/

Milton Keynes Box office 0844 871 7652

 

Nov 14th

Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail

By James Senor

Reviewed 11th November 2015

Serail 1

image Clive Barda

The Abduction from the Seraglio follows the story of two forsaken lovers. Belmonte is in love with Konstanze but she is enslaved to Pasha Salim. Pasha Salim wishes to marry Konstanze but not forcefully and so waits for her to respond to his affections. However, Belmonte plans to free Konstanze With the help of his past servant Pedrillo, who is also enslaved to Pasha. He devises a plan to free both Konstanze and her close friend Blonde. Blonde and Pedrillo are also in love, which is used as a comparative to the love of Belmonte and Konstanze throughout the play. There are only two significant people in the way of their escape, Osmin and Pasha Salim. Osmin is a servant of the Pasha and detests Pedrillo with a vengeance. Pasha is a Spanish ‘Renegade’, convert, who has prospered in Turkey and owns the household they are held in. 

The opera takes the form of a Singspiel; a German light opera, typically with spoken language. It is famous for being one of Mozart’s first full operas. The work premiered in 1782 and was a huge success both critically and financially.

In Glyndebourne’s production the set effectively captures the essence of its Eastern setting with meticulous attention to detail, the use of colour from the sandstone walls to the wooden screens is perfectly balanced. Designer Vicki Mortimer also makes very creative use of space with the numerous scenes she brought to life. Each scene change felt smooth, coherent and relevant.

Serail 2

image Clive Barda

There is a fantastic array of colour in the costumes; each piece equally important and going so far as to tell a story of the supernumeraries;  quite a task here considering the large cast of this production. 

Singing and acting was strong with amazing vocal dexterity by Ana Maria Labin playing Konstanze (Soprano) who wowed the audience with her performance of the demanding Ach, ich Liebte. Ben Bliss and James Kryshak made excellent work of Belmonte and Pedrillo (both Tenors). But theere was an outstanding performance from Clive Bayley and Franck Saurel for Osmin and Pasha.

Bayley really brought Osmin out as a loathsome and ugly character one which is not just a doltish oaf but a cruel bully with real intention. This injected a real element of frustration into the opera as he appeared to ruin the plans of Belmonte every time, provoking comical boos from the crowd at the end.

Franck Saurel has limited freedom with his spoken role however his acting skills shone. His role is, in some regards, the most important one being pivotal to the plot’s continuity. Letting Belmonte, Pedrillo, Konstanze and Blonde go in the end for dignity and honour is a drastic change. And for such a change the actor needs to tactfully present those virtues while subduing and masking them with anger and frustration. This, he has achieved. 

Ultimately an excellent opera to go see - exciting, emotional and highly dramatic.  

Glyndebourne plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14th November then continuing on tour.

http://www.glyndebourne.com/tickets-and-whats-on/our-seasons/tour-2015/

Milton Keynes Box office 0844 871 7652