Tag Archives: Vicki Mortimer

Wise Children

reviewed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on 20 November

Emma Rice’s new company, named for this launch production, has something of the quirkiness which one associates with her previous nest at Kneehigh. It’s a bold, multi-disciplined stage adaptation of Wise Children, Angela Carter’s last novel, and has a suitably exploited show-business background.

The kernel of the story centres on twin sisters, Dora and Nora. They are possibly the fruit of a one-night stand by actor-manager Melchior Hazard  (himself a scion of a sequence of such theatrical demigods) and a music-hall artiste. From the beginning we are made aware of the geographical and genre hierarchy of early 20th century entertainment.

Rice’s production uses Lyndie Wright’s puppets to represent these infant daughters, and later their putative cousins who may have been fathered by Melchior’s brother Peregrine. Adult Dora and Nora act as a species of chorus as the story unravels, played engagingly by Gareth Snook and Etta Murfitt.

As sub-teenagers, brought up by their grandmother Chance (Katy Owen), they are played by Bettrys Jones and Mirabelle Gremaud and later – in their stunning showgirl manifestation by Melissa James and Omari Douglas. Murfitt’s choreography fits the mood and period before us in perfect harmony with musical director Ian Ross’ pot-pourri score.

The younger Melchior is played by Ankur Bahl, who ages into Paul Hunter. Young Peregrine is Sam Archer, maturing (?) into Mike Shepherd. Patrycja Kujawska is Lady Atalanta, Melchior’s well-heeled, well-connected bride of his later years. The on-stage band is supplemented by the actors’ own instrumental as well as vocal contributions.

Yes, if you haven’t read the book, it does at first seem very complicated – a succession of music-hall sketches. Then the sheer theatricality of the presentation, like a succession of finely-executed transformation scenes draws us into its own slightly off-kilter world. Vicki Mortimer’s set and Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting aid the journey enormously.

Theatre – whether minimal or elaborate, bare boards and scarce a fistful of actors or backed by a lavish budget and a cast of thousands – is designed to draw us into another world. That can be realistically represented or symbolically suggested. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What does is its effect.

Wise Children (the company) has given itself something to live up to. That should be fun to watch.

Four and a half star rating.

Wise Children runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until 24 November with matinées on 22 and 24 November.

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Filed under Ballet and dance, Music Music theatre & opera, Plays, Reviews 2018

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 18 November)

Mozart’s first adult success in Vienna was also one of the highlights of this year’s Glyndebourne Festival. David McVicar’s production directed for this autumn’s Glyndebourne Tour by Ian Rutherford gives us a far more complete version of the spoken text than is usual nowadays; one effect is to bring Pasha Selim (Franck Saurel) centre stage.

SeLim is, of course, a spoken role. Saurel displays all the character facets of this complex personality, a convert to Islam as much through circumstances as through initial intention. There’s an erotic tension to his scenes with Ana Maria Labin’s marvellously sung Konstanze – she negotiates “Martern aller Arten” flawlessly – which suggests that her relationship with Tibor Szappanos will never quite resume its old pattern.

Szappanos sings Belmonte’s arias impeccably, but one cannot help feeling that he is the most nebulous character of the story. Osmin is a gift of a part for any singer who can act as well as encompass the deepest notes of the part, notably in “Solche hergelaufne Laffen”, and Clive Bayley does it superbly. Rebecca Nelsen’s Blonde is a servant-girl with attitude and a way with kitchen paraphenalia (fresh eggs included) which wouldn’t disgrace any pantomime slop-scene.

Her Pedrillo is James Kryshak offering a lilting “In Mohrrenland” in the foiled abduction scene and holding his own in the frught exchanges with Osmin. Vicki Mortimer’s set glides effortlessly through a deft arrangement of lattice-screens; Selim’s harem is populated by an interesting selection of women, all under the watchful gaze of Daniel Vernan’s overseer. The conductor is Christoph Altstaedt.

“Die Entführung aus dem Serail” is also at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 21 November.

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Filed under Opera, Reviews 2015