To hear or not to hear…
Confession time. I am befuddled by the world of gender fluidity, non-binary and self-identification. The result of a recent conversation with a sibling ended in her identifying as a bee and me as a tree. That said I am intrigued how we continue to evolve, as was Shakespeare, though I imagine even he would have been taken to another world if he had seen the Iris Theatre promenade production of Hamlet (St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden). It features a moribund Jenet Le Lacheur in the title role and s/he turns in a fine performance as the Prince of Denmark permanently on the verge of another breakdown.
The setting, however, is England in a ‘near future dictatorship’ where the hooded inhabitants are enslaved to their leader and the media is state controlled. Ring any bells? It is the new order with many contemporary theatrical interpretations attempting to draw parallels with modern day dictatorships. Director Daniel Winder and set designer Mike Leopoldo have created a multi-media production that includes clever technological trickery which is an interesting juxtaposition to the verdant outdoor surroundings. We move carefully between settings, each new scene having the potential to create something fresh and innovative yet that potential is never fully realised until we enter the atmospheric church for a climatic ending.
Hamlet’s gender identity – Horatio addresses her as “my lady” – begins as a thing of intrigue but soon, as with all things in this fast-moving interconnected world, it quickly becomes old news and something more is needed to inject the play with another layer of fascination. Thankfully there are a couple of excellent character portrayals by Vinta Morgan as Claudius and especially Paula James, an impassioned and pompous Polonius. The soliloquies remain intact though they become more of a broadcast than a nuanced speech and just when you think Winder has run out of ideas, he throws in a rave dance to keep us, and the actors no doubt, on our toes.
Sad to say the biggest flaw of this uneven, but brave and engaging production, is occasionally not being able to hear. Blame the sirens and the general London kerfuffle but the most important lesson of any alfresco show is to ensure you can be heard. To paraphrase “It is important what is said, but it is more important what is heard.”
Meanwhile Farin Fasouli would prefer more space…
Godspell (Cadogan Hall) was a one-off semi-staged production performed by the British Theatre Academy which exists to ensure theatre is made more easily available to young people UK wide. Amen to that. It also featured West End stars and an army of young, enthusiastic, and very energetic, members of the Academy. My goodness they made quite a sound, sometimes the volume was too much as they jostled for space on a relatively small stage. Nevertheless, they obviously relished the opportunity to sing those wonderful numbers, including Day by Day, All Good Gifts and Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord. Luke Bayer did a fabulous job as Jesus leading his singing disciples with visible pleasure though even he struggled to get through the masses. All in all an enjoyable event and I left with two lasting impressions. The talent and glee of the performers and those unforgettable songs.
Finally, Rubina Kangaris is struck by musical innovation…
The Royal Opera House and David McVicar have almost become synonymous, such is his influence on their seasons. His latest revival production, the 2006 version of The Marriage of Figaro, set in the tumultuous year of 1830, a switch from just before the French Revolution, brims with passion and a penchant for visual imagery which I found enchanting. Revival director Thomas Guthrie has stayed loyal to the original but there is also a lovely freshness and joie de vivre, and the notoriety and behaviour of the upper classes are hilariously revealed for the farcical snobs they are.
The cast is stupendous. Christian Gerhaher is superb as Figaro, a bundle of energy with a voice made for Mozart. The introduction of a countertenor, Kangmin Justin Kim, to take on the role Cherubino, works a treat and I have no doubt that this Kim, unlike his namesake in North Korea, is destined for a stellar career. There is a frisson of excitement each time he appears. It is very easy to become blasé about operas that are oft performed but what Guthrie has created here, ably assisted in the pit by John Eliot Gardiner, is an invigorating and very entertaining Marriage, a story of intrigue, misunderstanding and forgiveness.
Hamlet – www.iristheatre.com
The Marriage of Figaro – 020 7304 4000