More than an island

Politicos among us sometimes, mistakenly in my view, make historical and political comparisons between the situation in Cyprus and Northern Ireland. The contexts of colonialism and imperialism suggest similar power plays by a governing force but Cyprus has never had the deep rooted sectarianism suffered by the people in Northern Ireland. Our divisions are complex and as British soldier, Lieutenant Acheson said when arriving on the island in 1954, “we are here to divide them not unite them.”
Nevertheless I was drawn to a drama in Finsbury Park, thankfully in the theatre and not on the streets. Kate Reid crams an awful lot into her eighty minute play 4th Country (Park Theatre) including Bloody Sunday (1972), abortion being outlawed for 51 years, despite it being legal here, and bringing it up to date pre-Covid with the suspension of Stormont from 2017 to 2020. The personal becomes the political, seen through the eyes of officialdom and family, and all the contradictions and dysfunction therein which challenges any preconceptions that lay within the mind of the audience, who for the most part have been fed on a diet of “the Troubles” and the warring factions of Catholics and Protestants, or as in our case Greeks and Turks.
It is at once naturalistic with witty and tetchy interplay between recognisable characters and then suddenly becomes something more akin to an Augusto Baol Theatre of the Oppressed workshop in which he used to ask members of the audience to determine an outcome. Thankfully that does not happen but the characters do switch and challenge each other as to the legitimacy of using drama to portray a situation so complex and controversial. Can it do justice to the realities of what was and what remains an intensely difficult social, political and moral dilemma. Reid makes no definitive statement about that and no sooner are we lost in a mini on stage polemic, the actors switch characters again. That is the real strength of Reid’s play that she takes us out of the political intercourse into the real everyday difficulties of normal people going about their daily lives.
The cast of four, Cormac Elliott, Aiofe Kennan, Rachel Rooney and Kate Reid herself, are a talented and versatile quartet, switching roles with ease and although occasionally once or twice the characters are a tad stereotyped for the most part they offer us a dramatic narrative that is both educational and disquieting, performed with conviction and authenticity. Theatre needs more plays of this ilk to cajole and coerce and considering where we are today very timely too.
Meanwhile Vivat Stactou enjoys merry nuptials…
The first thing to say about The Marriage of Figaro (Royal Opera House) is it slightly outstays its welcome, three and a half hours (including a thirty minute interval). The second is that David McVicar’s production is undoubtedly a bundle of fun. The overture sets the tone for what follows, a self contained mimed drama by the domestic staff in a chateau. Imaginative and beautifully executed. It is a visual feast and so elegant too with clever staging that picks out the humour with the goings on and shenanigans in the background just as interesting and amusing as the main plot. It moves along at pace, so much so that should you have to adjust your face covering or clean the steam off your glasses you will miss something.
The cast are top notch. Riccardo Fassi is a very forceful Figaro, swanning around in his frock coats singing with vim and vigour. In the role of Susanna the very lively and animated Giulia Semenzato has the voice of an angel while Hanna Hipp gives a boyishly amusing portrayal of Cherubino. Gianluca Buratto is a thunderous Bartolo and Alexandra Lowe in complete contrast sings exquisitely with mellifluous tone as Barbarina.
A slight disappointment is the scene of disguising the sex of Cherubino. There is an opportunity to have a lot more fun there. All in all it is a wonderfully comic production with some magic moments as in the scene change when leaves begin to fall and the chateau disappears to reveal a beautiful woodland. It is too long though from the thunderous applause it received maybe I’m in the minority on that.

4th Country – www.parktheatre.co.uk
The Marriage of Figaro – www.roh.org.uk

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