Category Archives: Reviews

Review: “Carnation for a Song”

The Young Vic Café / Bar is bustling…filled with people hanging out and relaxing, unlike the determined queue of people waiting to get access to the performance space for this show, tickets (which are free) are now scarce, such is its popularity.

This Community event commissioned by the Young Vic as part of its ‘Taking part project’ has clearly been a resounding success.

“Carnation for a Song” inspired by Oscar Wilde’s famous queer reference to green carnations, is an ensemble piece for fourteen LGBQ Londoners aged 50+, who share their personal life experience through stories and song.

This is a production that is both comedic and poignant. Its participants have lived through decriminalization, HIV, Section 28 and the legalization of same sex marriage, as well as the day to day trials of Gay life and online dating!

Josephs Atkins’ original songs and musical accompaniment, inspired by the original interviews with the cast, were a highlight, of the show. Expansive, expressive and toe tapping! I particularly loved “Gateways Girls” but enjoyed them all.

Director Megan Cronin shepherded her flock of ‘fearless participants’ and enabled the authenticity of our collective history to shine through. The audience were visibly moved.

This is an entertaining and interesting production. It illuminates the importance of narrating our history, lest it be made invisible. We must not forget our Trans and BAME family’s part in it.

 

Young Vic 10-13thApril

Tate Late 26th April

Review: “Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel”

This is a thrilling and very scary production. I loved it! I was literally gripping my seat…I haven’t seen anything so dramatically and musically accomplished for a very long time

“Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel” is part of the ENO’s commitment to supporting new operas and presenting works that appeal to a large and diverse audience. This one is a winner!

The production tackles its horrific subject matter head on. It unflinchingly depicts the pitiful and harrowing lives of the working class, uneducated, women who lived in Whitechapel in 1888. During this period poverty was regarded as a criminal vice, and women as mere chattels.

It charts the bloody reign of Jack the Ripper, focusing on five of his victims. These women were all in their forties, down on their luck and working as prostitutes. It explores the camaraderie that existed between them and the community the Ripper stalked. It goes some way in restoring the humanity and visibility of those women.

Right from the start, Ian Bell’s atmospheric score draws you into the dark labyrinth of the women’s precarious lives, revealing its humour, bravado and brutality. The fluid complexity of Bell’s beautifully executed composition illuminates the individual characters, as well as their interactions. It gave me goose bumps.

Emma Jenkins’ libretto is poignant and heart wrenching. “None but the lonely heart can know my sorrow” – a quote taken from one of the actual victims’ headstone – still haunts me.

The five central characters are beautifully created and sung with vocal dexterity and sincerity. It’s a star-studded cast and not one of the performers disappoints. Including the forty strong chorus.

This is an opera that will appeal to people who usually don’t go to, or like opera. If you’re a fan of drama, suspense, horror and an entertaining night out, don’t miss it. I suggest you take a friend…there will be lots to talk about

“Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel” runs 3-12 April

Booking: eno.org 

Box Office: 0207 845 9300

Review: War Requiem

I love going to the ENO. It’s not just the gorgeous architecture or its fabulous location.  It’s because of the sense of inclusion I feel as soon as I step into the building. The feeling, that every type of person comes here, and every person is made welcome.

This production of “War Requiem” is of particular interest to the LGBTQ community. Composed in 1962 by Benjamin Britten, (with the tenor part originally written for his lover Peter Pears.) Britten uses excerpts from Wilfred Owen’s poetry, to epitomize the waste and futility of war. Both Britten and Owen were homosexual and living at a time when it was illegal to be so. This particular production’s designer, Wolfgang Tillman, is a gay activist as well as a Turner prizewinner.

War Requiem is a choral extravaganza, epic and thrilling in equal measure. Its score is well served by an enormous chorus of adults and children. The body of the chorus is onstage for much of the production.

The sure performances of soloists David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams draw the poignancy and sorrow from the text. But it was soprano Emma Bell, who stole the show, with her beauty, vocal dexterity and theatrical presence.

Tillman’s set comprises of photographs projected onto three large panels onstage. Apart from the early archive pictures of injured soldiers, I found most of the images irrelevant, their static quality distracting from, rather than enhancing, the emotional intensity of the music and libretto.

Britten’s consummate score combined with Owen’s emotionally harrowing text, clearly depicts the suffering and horror that our gallant soldiers, many of them just boys, endured for their country. Particularly so, for the homosexuals in their ranks who were criminalized because of their sexuality

This beautifully orchestrated production, reminds us that War is not a solution…it’s a tragedy.  Love is the solution. Including the Love that once, dare not speak its name.

E.N.O. until Dec 7th

 

Review of ‘Salome’

A feminist interpretation of “Salome” opens the ENO’s woman-focused 18/19 season, directed by Adena Jacobs

It was thrilling to see the eighty-strong orchestra sitting in the pit. Unfortunately, that’s where, for me, the visual magic of the evening ended.

The erotic, murderous and decadent themes of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play were sanitized and dislocated by a series of seemingly pointless gimmicks. Why was:

  • Jokanaan (John the Baptist) wearing pink stilettoes in his prison cell?
  • A giant pink, headless ‘My Little Pony’ hoisted up on the stage?
  • The dance of the seven veils reduced to a series of keep-fit postures?
  • Jokanaan’s severed head contained in a sealed white plastic bag?

The stage direction was sadly lacking in physicality throughout.

But ah… the music! The orchestra, under Martyn Brabbin’s assured direction, delivered an interpretation of Richard Strauss’s 1905 score that was both subtle and rich in flavor. It soared, it seduced and then, finally…it consumed.

Alison Cook’s Salome is a powerful and fatally flawed character possessed by ‘lodesliebe’ (death-love). This Salome is curiously unerotic, despite her stripping off and simulating masturbation early on in the show. Cook’s voice, though in tune, could not always match the emotional intensity of the music.

The relationship between Salome and her mother Herodia (a solid performance from Susan Bickley) is revealed as a love deeper than maternal. Their final duet (a highlight) climaxes in a passionate kiss.

The male characters came across as weak or impotent or vulnerable. David Soar was (unusually) vocally disappointing as Jokanaan – perhaps hampered by having a video camera strapped across his face, which displayed a close up of his mouth on the set’s backcloth? Michael Colvin’s Herod was a grotesque and almost comedic character.

But ah…the music! I walked home with it ringing in my ears, it haunted my dreams. It was thrilling!

This production of Salome though compromised by its direction, choreography and staging does not disappoint musically.  The orchestration is magnificent. Definitely worth a listen.

Until 23rdOct.  www.eno.org0207 845 9300

Review of Royal Court’s “Poet in da Corner”

A Tour de Force, by The Royal Court and the Represent programme. Which commission female orientated artworks exploring issues of democracy, inclusion and equality in contemporary Britain.

This is a show like no other. Crisp and Cathartic.  It’s a show where music, dance and spoken word collide.

Right from the start we are physically drawn into the drama by the rhythm of the music … supplied throughout by an on stage DJ.

Poet in da corner is essentially a coming of age story about Debris, a young, mixed race, Mormon-raised, bisexual.  She’s a loner whose trying to find her place at home, at school and in the world.

When Debris hears Dizzie Rascals seminal 2003 Grime Album ”Boy in the Corner” she has an epiphany, which enables her to feel confident about her own authenticity, to establish friendships and explore the potential of her life.

The poetry is fast paced, funny, hard…sometimes, heart-rending. Its poetry that sings and dances…powered by the driving rhythm of the music.

I particularly loved the scene where Debris experiences her first girl love. Which was tender, expressive and beautifully choreographed.

The ensemble cast, play a number of parts throughout, with relaxed ease. The choreography, being an integral part of each characterization.

It wasn’t just on stage that the dancing was happening. I went with Grime Pop Princess Toya Delazy and we, along with the rest of the audience, were dancing in our seats.

It runs until the 6thOctober.  I recommend you catch it if you can!