Tag Archives: Cardiff

Review Deathtrap, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

DEATHTRAP

By Ira Levin

2 Stars2 / 5

Deathtrap is the age old story of a man who wants more than he has and is prepared to go to any lengths to gain it.

The action takes place at the home of playwright Sidney Bruhl’s home that he shares with his wife of 11 years, Myra.

We see Sidney, a man who has not written a successful play for a number of years receives a manuscript from a aspiring young playwright. This is the opening of a plot that will change the course of the lives of Sidney and Myra in ways that we, the audience, will not have imagined.

The story covers four weeks in the life of Sidney Bruhl where he, Sidney, plans and plots to create a better life for himself at any cost.

The three main characters played by Paul Bradley (Sidney Bruhl), Jessie Wallace (Myra Bruhl) and Sam Phillips (Clifford Anderson), despite all being well known to us in former stage and television roles, were believable and I particularly liked Wallace’s portrayal of Myra Bruhl.

Despite not being familiar with the story and not having seen any other adaptation I didn’t find it as thrilling as I had anticipated. There were a lot of question marks about the relationships between the characters which were never addresses in either dialogue or behaviour except for the ending of act one. This isolated engagment between characters didn’t actually appear to have any relevance to the storyline and left the audience somewhat confused. Perhaps it was meant to shock? Either way it really didn’t work.

That said, the outstanding performance for me was Beverley Klein. She gave a wonderful performance as Helga ten Dorp, the Bruhl’s psychic neighbour. Her portrayal of ten Dorp single-handedly brought the thrills, drama and humour to the stage and was a delight to watch.

The set design worked well and the lighting created an atmosphere for day and night that worked particually well. The sound was spot on and certainly on cue for the moments we all jumped out of our seats! It would be unfair to elabarate further as it would certainly create a spoiler for anyone going to see the play.

Scene changes were prompted by the showing of vintage thrillers on screen in black and white which worked to great effect and enhanced the experience. The video design which was by Duncan McLean gave a sort of scrap book feel to the presentation and perhaps gave an insight to the mind of a thriller writer, their inspiration and method of work?

DEATHTRAP plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 10 October – Saturday 14 October at 7.30pm

Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday Matinees at 2.30pm.

For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review Around The World In 80 Days by Jane Bissett

5 Stars5 / 5

By Jules Verne

Adapted by Laura Eason

Phileas Fogg is a mysterious and wealthy man who while at his London club wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.

Joining him on this mad cap and most impossible adventure is his loyal french valet, Passepartout. Leaving Victorian London behind they race against time and tide to fulfill their undertaking and to ensure that they return home in 80 days to the hour for Fogg to win the wager.

This production is a wonderfully funny romp around the globe with Fogg as our leader and Passepartout as our guide. From the exotic subcontinent to the American Wild West over land and sea there are laughs a plenty and audience participation. The fast moving pace leaves you almost breathless and it is impossible to believe that the 125 characters you see on the stage are only played by a cast of eight!

The energy of this magnificantly talented cast is inspiring as they move from trains to boats, across land and even travel by elephant!

There is also a daring rescue,four fights, three dances and two circus acts and they even manage a wedding!

The highly skilled performances for the non-contact fights including slow motion was punctuated by sound effects and comic timing which looked effortless. This was stage craft at its very best and the action just went on and on.

Director, Theresa Heskins, has achieved the impossible by bringing the world to the stage and the cast and creative team rose to the challenge of bringing it all to life by the use of stage, props, lighting and sound.

Whilst this was truly a whole cast performance, Michael Hugo as Passepartout was outstanding. He had the audience joining him on stage and off to great effect laughing at him, with him, and also at themselves.

This is a truly enjoyable show for which you need to take along your inner child and leave your inhibitions as home.

Prepare to go on a journey that will see you laughing your way around the world and leave you wanting more.

At the final curtain, when the cast returned to the stage the beaming smiles were a clear indication that they, the cast, had enjoyed performing as much as the audience had enjoyed the performance.

Around the World in 80 Days plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 19 September – Sunday 24 September at 7.00pm

Thursday, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2.30pm.

For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

The New Theatre, Cardiff – A Theatre Tour by Jane Bissett

As you step through the doors of the New Theatre, Cardiff you can feel the air of anticipation for what lies ahead. The warmth of the welcome, the buzz of the audience as they gather to enter the auditorium and witness the delights of being entertained by live performers. But what about all the supporting cast?

‘The Theatre Tour’ is a chance to see at first hand all the behind the scenes magic and  meet the people that make stars of the performers before our eyes.

Everyone who lives in Cardiff will be familiar with the exterior of the New Theatre as it has been a landmark in the city for over 110 years. This beautiful Edwardian theatre has changed little from the outside over that time but the interior has seen more changes and all of them improvements from performers and theatre goers alike.

As you walk through the doors with an air of expectation for the performance ahead you are absorbed into the very world of this wonderful old theatre and the people who are the beating heart that brings it all to life.

So for me, the chance of a behind the scenes tour of the New Theatre was not to be missed.

Visitors arriving for an evening at the New Theatre are always assured of a warm welcome by the front of house staff. So it was no surprise that when we arrived for our tour of the theatre we were met with genuine hospitality by the volunteer ushers, Colin and Linda who’s job it was to ensure we navigated the theatre in safety without getting lost or left behind.

Our host was Matt Smith, who has been involved with the theatre for many years and is somewhat of an expert when it comes to the history of the building and its previous owners.

We started our tour in the bar where Matt gave us an overview of how the theatre was built. The first owner, Mr Robert Redford and his wife Grace although not from Cardiff, held the city in high regard and Mr Redford worked for many years at another theatre in the city but felt that Cardiff needed a New Theatre, so he built one.

The foundation stone was laid by Grace in March 1906 and the theatre opened with its first production, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the December of the same year.

The foundation stone is now set in the wall of the ground floor bar alongside the ceremonial trowel which was given to the theatre in its centenary year after being held by the relatives of Robert and Grace who had emigrated to Australia.

At the stage door, we took the route of all actors and performers back stage to the dressing rooms. These were functional, ready and waiting for the next occupants to make them their own for the duration of their stay.

Dressing rooms are located over two floors and in keeping with the old traditions there are even fold down seats for the dressers to wait in the corridors for the arrival back to the dressing room of the actors (it is not considered etiquette for the dressers to be in the actors dressing rooms when they are not there).

It was then time to visit the ‘Fly Floor’ this is where all the scenery and effects are put onto the rope and pulley systems to ensure that they can be lowered and lifted into place at the correct time during the performances.

Del, who is now a ‘Technician’ but who started his career in the theatre as a ‘fly man’, clearly loved what he did (If he didn’t then he was the best actor of them all!). He gave us the opportunity to look back at times past and the hemp rope system which worked on the same lines as sails on a ship by ropes being locked off with a cleat system. Del demonstrated how the scenery would have been flown in and out being worked by a team of 13 burly men on either side of the stage and would have communicated through whistles and hand gestures.

Hemp rope tied off to a cleat.

The system used now is operated using counter weights. Sounding straight forward, it takes much skill and knowledge to get the backdrops and scenery where they’re meant to be, on time and seamlessly.

Exiting the Fly Floor you are on the level of the upper circle. This was a great location to be able to enter the auditorium and have an overview of the theatre. Being close to the ceiling it also gave the opportunity to take in the beautiful architecture that is so familiar but often overlooked.

The highlight of the tour was of course stepping ‘on stage’. There was no roar of the crowd, smell of the greasepaint or limelights but there was the chance to see how the lighting works, explore the role of the assistant director, and the chance to see the all important safety curtain from the other side as well as understanding how it works and why.

Standing on the stage, which is a 1 in 4 rake (this means that it slopes down towards the audience), with the house lights down and the stage lights up it was easy to see why the theatre is indeed a magical place for actors and audiences alike.

The last stop on this tour was at the back of the stalls in the control room where the mixing and control desks are. A sophisticated environment overseen by someone who admitted to coming to the theatre for work experience, and never really left, and having done various jobs has worked his way up.

The tour of the New Theatre leaves you in awe of everyone who works there and brings the touring productions to life.

Theatres and their staff are often referred to as a family, well family or now they certainly are a close knit team and are the unsung heroes behind all the magic and drama that we witness on the stage. From the lady (or gentleman) who mans the stage door to the fly man and the ever diligent fire officer who sits unseen at the side of the stage for every performance to ensure the safety of the actors, the audience and the theatre.

The beauty, history and heritage of this Edwardian theatre is only surpassed by the welcome of its staff. Their love of theatre and their dedication to their craft will continue to make our visits to The New Theatre, Cardiff, special, entertaining and magical.

For further details about forthcoming productions visit www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review All About My Tits, Chapter Arts Centre by Helen Joy

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

All about my Tits

I know Anna, a bit. We worked together briefly in a local charity supporting people receiving mental health services. We stayed in touch as she moved her career into the arts. I interviewed her on Radio Cardiff about this play. Her play. Her life. Her tits.

Anyone thinking this was going to be about anyone else’s tits is mistaken. Any social-political commentary is suggestive rather than overt, Anna is her own one woman treatise on the elastic line between tit and breast, sexual objects and milk bar.

I really like the atmosphere as we walk in to take our seats. The room is dark, girls are dancing, pop is playing, pictures of breasts various on the screen.  White Russians are handed out. Not sure we get the significance yet. Much clearer when the breast milk samples are offered ’round later in the performance.

The dancing girls insinuate themselves into the audience. Hecklers and fighters for the views of others on breastfeeding as it progresses. A messy milky fight for rights.

It is a monologue of Anna’s experiences, a voyage ’round her breasts from girlhood to adulthood to motherhood and beyond. She refers to her book, diary perhaps, along the way. Stories are started, we are left to draw our own conclusions.

Anna uses her heckling dancers to good effect. A male heckler is used to make the point that it is not a show for titillation, ‘though Anna is fearless and shares her body appropriately and willingly and with a gentle self-deprecating humour.

Now. Here’s the thing. I haven’t had children and frankly, I don’t know much about tits as mother nature never felt much inclined towards generosity in that department.

This is a play about Anna’s tits. I have no idea what she is talking about for most of the time. I can see that the audience loves it – mostly women, mostly women with children I would assume, they are nodding in agreement and laughing with Anna throughout. She relates back. It is very nicely done.

Anna is sharing the intimate details of her life and most of the women, and a few men, are with her. Laughing with the relief of their own confusion, pain, embarrassments and pleasures being given air-time.

The atmosphere becomes heady with love for Anna, for her honesty, for the sisterhood. But I am lost.

I am sitting next to another woman equally detached from the proceedings. We want to love her too but we can’t. We are not part of this. But we admire her, enormously.

Afterwards, by invitation, the foyer is full of women signing the cartoon tits laid out on tables, they are groupies waiting for their heroine, their voice, to join them. Something powerful is happening here.

The clue was in the title. This is a brave, funny, honest autobiography and like many things we don’t quite like, don’t quite understand, it will stay with me far longer than anything I have enjoyed more.  It made me think about the changing roles of the breast in society and in nature. It made me slightly jealous.

PS typing this has been annoyingly tricky as predictive/corrective text replaces TITS with TITUS, BREASTS with BEASTS. Says it all really.

Seen: Friday, 7th July, 2017

Venue: Chapter Arts, Cardiff

Reviewer: Helen Joy for Get the Chance

Performer, producer, director, writer: Anna Suschitsky

 

https://www.chapter.org/all-about-my-tits

 

 

Review The Graduate, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

4 Stars4 / 5

The stage production of The Graduate  is Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the 1967 screenplay for the film of the same name. The story of the Graduate was written by Charles Webb and was his first novel written at the age of 24. Whilst it is not considered directly autobiographical, Webb’s own life is very much reflected in what he wrote and he has drawn on his own experiences to portray the, what was then, young Benjamin Braddock.

The play, set at the time it was written, gives us an insight into the world of the 1960s up and coming affluent American families and their aspirations for their offspring.

In contrast Benjamin shows us a confused young man who having graduated is unclear of his route ahead. His parents want him to follow a career path that will lead him to a secure future both financially and socially, however, Benjamin does not view this life with such optimism.

On the day of his graduation party he is propositioned by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson, a woman clearly bored in an unfulfilled marriage that denied her of a career and life before her life as a mother and housewife began and has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Shocked and knowing the close relationship between his parents and the Robinson’s he rejects her. Curious, bored and wanting to experience life Benjamin later begins an illicit affair with Mrs Robinson that lasts the summer. However, he quickly realises that he wants more from life and from a relationship.

Behind the scenes Mr Robinson and Benjamin’s father have been matchmaking and have arranged for him to take the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, on a date. Disinterested Benjamin takes her to a venue that he is certain she will not like and he isn’t disappointed. Benjamin and Elaine continue to date much to the disapproval of her mother, his former lover, and when Elaine finally returns to college Benjamin announces to his parents that Elaine Robinson is the woman he will marry.

Benjamin then pursues Elaine, declares his love, only to be brought home by his father after the discovery of his affair with Mrs Robinson. As far as his parents are concerned his issues stem from his childhood and as a family they go to see a therapist.

The discovery that Elaine is to marry spurs Benjamin into action and his timely arrival at the church stops the wedding…. does it have a happy ending? Only time will tell but Benjamin and Elaine do end the play by running away together.

In Webb’s life his college romance with Eve Rudd (aka Fred) faced disapproval from her parents and despite numerous barriers put before them it went on to be a lifelong relationship that endured the tests of time and that of family life as they had two sons.

This production was set at the time it was written and had a very retro feel to the set design and the way in which the scenes changed. There were some up-to-date touches with dream sequences being projected as a film in the background which I felt visually worked well.

Jack Monaghan’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock was very reminiscent of that given by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film of The Graduate. His slow American accent accentuated the personality of Benjamin and indeed allowed us to consider his age and thought processing of the situations that he found himself in. Whilst in 2017 a young man of 21 is worldly wise we have to remember that this was certainly not the case in the families of the new up and coming affluent classes of American society of the 1960s.

From the moment Catherine McCormack (Mrs Robinson) sets foot on the stage we see a bored middle aged woman who is desperately trying to cling on to her youth. Her marriage is unfulfilling and she has taken refuge in alcohol a poor excuse, even then, for her behaviour. As the story unfolds we see a woman who has lost control of her family and resents her daughter for having all the advantages she did not but who does not have the personality and enthusiasm for life that she considers young women of the liberated 1960 should have.

All the cast members enhanced the main characters and gave credible performances in their own right. It was a thought provoking and enjoyable production and never before have I seen a bed with so much stage presence and a the ability to move seamlessly between scenes.

The Graduate needs to be viewed in context to its time and place in history. From conversations around me, many of the audience had seen the film and clearly were enjoying this performance, the only thing that was missing was a Greyhound Bus.

The Graduate plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/the-graduate/

Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett

 

5 Stars5 / 5

NOT DEAD ENOUGH

Review by Third Act Critic, Jane Bissett

NOT DEAD ENOUGH – if ever there was a understatement for a title of a play this is it. This adaptation, although from a book of the same title, was a very much alive, fast moving drama which moved at a pace that ensured the audience was running alongside, wanting more but never left behind.

Peter James is an acclaimed author of crime fiction and Not Dead Enough is the third book in a series of 13 featuring DS Roy Grace. As a writer of crime fiction James has researched extensively interviewing convicted murderers and has a great insight into the criminal mind and indeed that of the seasoned detective. As an avid reader I am always in awe of the person who has the ability and imagination to adapt a book for the stage but Shaun McKenna has this cracked. He has done an outstanding job of bringing the story to life in the most believable way and I am sure with the approval of the novelist, Peter James.

All credit to an amazing Creative Team of; Director, Designer, Lighting, Sound, Production, Costume and Props who have created an environment before us of a Pathology Laboratory, a Police Station and an outside scene where it is as easily believable as the more sophisticated setting of the lab. In fact the staging of this production is the key to its ability to draw the audience into the world that James’ has created for us.

It is difficult to talk about the story line without giving away too much. If you have read James’ novels then you will be familiar with DS Grace and know him already and you will be entranced as the James’ characters are brought to life before you.

I guarantee this crime thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Indeed at one point the gentleman sat next to me exclaimed out loud, in reaction to DS Grace searching for something, “It’s not in the box!” clearly this audience member was totally immerced in the investigation, as were we all.

All productions have their leading roles however, in Not Dead Enough all the characters were of equal importance to the storyline and you would be easily convinced that they were police officers who had worked together for years not actors playing a role.

However, that said I have to mention Gemma Stroyan who played Bella Moy and Gemma Atkins who played Sophie Harington.

Stroyan gave us a confident portrayal of a female police officer which was seamlessly believable at every level, comfortable in her skin and confident in what she was about. I would like to think that maybe James would take her character in the future and promote her to the central character in her own novel(s).

Atkins also gave a polished performance as Harington keeping us guessing about who she really was and what (if anything) she was really up to.

During the interval the auditorium was alive with chatter and theatre goers were talking not only amongst themselves and also with neighbouring audience members as to what they thought was going on, who had done what and making predictions about how it was all going to conclude.

Like DS Grace, I wanted to believe the main suspect, but how could we?! What was the evidence showing us? Who was safe? Who was next? WHAT WAS GOING ON?!

It would be wrong for me to tell you more but be aware it is not over till it’s over and even then not all the questions will have answers.

At curtain call the volume of the applause was only just that above the whistles of approval. This is an unmissable crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more all the way until the end.

I for one will be looking more closely at James’ novels and perhaps it will be my summer reading for 2017.

And for the record, on the way out people were still chatting and animated about what they had just seen.

NOT DEAD ENOUGH plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

 

An interview with artist Kyle Legall

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Kyle Legall. We discussed his career to date, theatre in Wales and his new production RATS (Rose Against the System) which plays at Wales Millennium Centre 02-03 June 2017.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/other/rats/?view=Standard

“Hi Kyle great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?”

Kyle Legall spray paints Planet Rock, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force. T-shirt, Higher Graphics.

“I believe you are currently preparing for a new production at The Wales Millennium Centre called RATS (Rose Against The System). I wonder if you can tell us more?”

Kyle was inaugural artist of the year with National Theatre Wales. This information below is taken from Klyle’s blog post on the development process of RATS which was posted on the NTW Community.

Kyle with a RATS cast member

“I will be presenting a glimpse of my Rats project; Rose Against The System. This is an animation I have been working on over the last year. The rats of Butetown have got wise and decide to fight back. I am planning on showing how far I have gotten by trying out a performing version for the first instalment to see if it could work as a theatre piece as well as an animation.”

“I have involved local musicians and spoken word talents such as Wibidy and Weller from Degaba. Music score by Dafydd Ieaun, from ‘Catatonia’ and ‘Super Furry Animals’ performing with his new band ‘The Earth’ introducing a new talent I discovered whilst in Edinburgh Fringe, Sam Porter. Guest Voice by Rhys Ifans.”

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/higher-graphics-exhibition-1?xg_source=activity

A live trailer for an earlier version of RATS (Contains strong language)
Voices by Rhys Ifans, Weller, Wibidy, Sciddy, Sam Porter. Music by Dafydd Ieaun from Super Furry Animals

“What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?”

“Many thanks for your time.”

REVIEW: RUTH RENDELL- A JUDGEMENT IN STONE, NEW THEATRE BY JAMES BRIGGS

4 Stars4 / 5

On Tuesday 4th April Cardiff’s New Theatre become a hub for wannabe sleuths as it welcomed the classic Murder Mystery play A Judgement In Stone by the prolific writer Ruth Rendell.  Ruth Rendell is very highly regarded among Murder Mystery fans all over the world and much like Agatha Christie she has continued to grow in popularity even after her passing.

Ruth Rendell is very well known for writing very differently to other crime writers due to her focus being more on the psychological reasoning and effect with a murder opposed to looking in depth at the characters and their motives. This was shown largely in the play as the motive and act of the murder chilled me to the core!

Without giving away too much about the story the play opens with a crime scene set in the divine country mansion of the Coverdale family comprising of the murders of a father, mother, son and daughter. As the story unfolds before the audience on stage as does one of Rendell’s signature writing techniques with the inclusion of the ‘Class divide’. At the time of setting and writing the play the ‘class divide’ between the working class and upper class was at it’s biggest. With other shows made at the time such as Blood Brothers by Willy Russell also showing this divide. As the show progresses although the plot is a Murder Mystery one cannot help but pick up on the class references in the show.

Ruth Rendell creates exquisite characters who all have a different story to tell (and a different motive to kill). The first characters the audience encounter are the two central characters of the play Detective Superintendent Vetch (played by Andrew Lancel) and Sergeant Challoner (played by Ben Nealon). Both men are your typical ‘Coppers’. It is at this time the audience meet Eunice Parchman played by Sophie Ward who is the house keeper.

Following on from this the play very cleverly follows a Non-linear narrative and jumps from the present to the past. The audience meet the family and their individual personalities start to show. The family as shown in the picture below on the settee are Melinda Coverdale, George Coverdale, Jacqueline Coverdale and Giles Mont.

We also meet three other characters also shown in the picture Eva Baalham, Joan Smith and Roger Meadows who is played by BLUE star Antony Costa.

I simply must also mention the wonderful set designed for the show as it was amazing. It was very reminiscent to that of The Mouse Trap and had a wonderful sense of grandeur to it, really helping to set the scene for the audience. I highly recommend you watch this play especially if you are a Murder Mystery fan but WILL YOU SOLVE THE CASE?

A Judgement In Stone is currently playing at the New Theatre until Saturday 8th April so make sure you get your tickets here- http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/a-judgement-in-stone/

Review: Lakme, Swansea City Opera at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

4 Stars4 / 5

Absolutely beautiful – the colours of India, the sentiments of its time, the tragedy of love over birth – exquisite.

It makes me cry. I have loved the music from this rarely performed opera for years and years. It is absolutely beautiful. And the characters are all visually believable – both leads are young and lovely looking, their voices ardent as their passion. No one is miscast, no one is out of place.

It is as gentle and as curiously English as a Wildean play but with the underlying expectation of tragedy teasing us along the way. It is Madam Butterfly meets Passage to India. I wonder whether I may feel less or more affected were it sung in the original French and conclude a handsome, manly colonialist colliding with a hidden jewel of a local lass will sound the same in any language where it is sung with conviction.

The clash of backgrounds, religions, family and commitments is very predictable and the terrible messy tragedy of it all plays out predictably too. Delibes opera is based on Pavie’s story. But this is a predictable tale prettily told, beautifully visualised and fabulously well sung.

The Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika is exquisite, Lakme’s Bell Song heart-achingly lovely with the sopranos comfortably balanced by the tenor of Gerald and the bass-baritone of Nilakantha.

The set feels a little clumsy initially but its simplicity allows us to concentrate on the opera and enjoy the music, the period costumes and the sublime singing. How lovely it is to revel in Lakme performed as it might have been at the turn of the last century.  

But yet again, I leave a performance wishing I could take it home with me somehow – I want to listen to it all again and again and I can’t – I want to take Lakme home with me, fill my house with her voice, send it out into the darkness of the night so others can hear her, feel her hope and her sorrow, scent the flowers in her garden, scream at her not to take the poisonous datura…

I am left bereft.

 Beautiful

 

 

Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.

 

7 March, 7.30pm

Prices

£15 -22
Concessions: £2 off
Under 25s: Half price

More information

By Léo Delibes
Director Brendan Wheatley

Pre-show talk: 6.15pm

Running time: 135 minutes (20 minutes interval)

http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

Tour dates: http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

 

Review Lakmé, Swansea City Opera, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Michaels

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

The opera Lakmé is possibly best known for the popular Flower Duet, composed by Delibes as a showcase for sopranos and performed in Act I by Lakmé and her maidservant Mallika. Lakmé is the daughter of Nilakantha a Brahmin Priest, and the story, set in British-governed India in the 19th century, centre around the love story of Lakmé and a British officer, Gerald. Nilakantha has been forbidden to practice his religion by the British and, full of hatred for the occupying force combined with an obsessive patriarchal love, vows revenge. When he discovers Lakmé has become attracted to Gérald, Nilakantha sets a trap for the soldier and knifes him. Lakmé hides Gérald in the forest and nurses him back to health, but his officer friend Frederic appears to remind him that he has been posted elsewhere. Duty calls – with tragic consequences.

All photographic credits Guy Harrop

The atmosphere of British India comes to the fore in the picnic scene in Act I with the two Army officers, their English girlfriends and governess, with a neat cameo role by New Zealand mezzo-soprano Rhonda Browne as the governess Mistress Bentson, permanently clutching her black Gladstone bag as if it were her saviour.

Romanian born soprano Madalina Barbu’s delicacy of appearance are ideal for the role of Lakmé. Barbu has performed in a number of demanding operatic roles,but does not cope well with all the high notes in the Act II aria Bell Song – a long-time favourite with coloratura sopranos – which is a pity given the high standard of other solo arias and in particular her duets with Gérald (Luke Sinclair). However, Barbu’s diction is not always clear, especially in Act I. Sung in English, it should not be a problem but surtitles would have helped.

As Gérald, Sinclair’s rounded tenor is first class, outstandingly so in his solo arias and duets with Barbu. His interaction with Mark Saberton’s Frederic is also good. As the Mr Nasty of the piece Nilakantha, Håkan Vramsmo bestrides the stage with lofty disdain and a powerful bass, while in the role of Nilakantha’s slave Hadji, Bo Wang gives a neat and well timed performance.

As both director, artistic director and set designer Brendan Wheatley has his work cut out. With the exception of the colourful market scene in Act II, Wheatley’s minimal set is just that, resulting in much of this opera’s Oriental ambience and emphasis on the natural beauty of flowers and trees being lost. There is not a tree or flower to be seen, unless you count the solitary lily thrown on stage in the final act.   Surely, Mr Wheatley, you could have run to a token miniature tree or so, and maybe a flowering bush? A local garden centre might be pleased to offer them gratis in return for a programme mention. For greenery, Wheatley relies heavily on the lighting to engender atmosphere, and full credit to lighting director James Thomas for doing his utmost to comply.

With its melodic score and passionate themes of love and persecution, this is opera to tug at your heart strings and this production by Swansea City Opera does that on all fronts. Considering the restrictions of opera on a shoestring – the company was rescued by funding from the Arts Council after Swansea withdrew their support – all credit to them for staging a most enjoyable performance. However, despite manful efforts, the small orchestra struggles to cope with the richness and delicate orchestration of Delibes score.

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Lakmé, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Music: Léo Delibes

Libretto: Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille

New English Translation: Bridget Gill

Director: Brendan Wheatley

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels