Saturday, 30 January 2010

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sleeping Beauty SHHHH!

By the way a big shout out to the morons who sat behind me at the ballet. I really enjoyed the way you got into the spirit of the evening by talking loudly during the bits that you (presumably) found boring, laughing at inappropriate moments and finally responding with abuse when asked to be quiet. Way to go and great that you learned how to behave approriately before coming to theatre!

Sleeping Beauty at the ROH

Tamara Rojo

Went to see SLEEPING BEAUTY at the ROH on Saturday (after queuing in the freezing cold). Apart from the gorgeous Tamara Rojo it was a rather underwhelming evening. Chiefly responsible for this was the prehistoric designs which are marginally updated versions of Oliver Messel's Sadlers Wells designs. I cannot for the life of me imagine who thought that these would work on the vast expanses of the Opera House stage or be acceptable to modern audiences used to huge elaborate sets. They must have looked conventional even just after the war - Nowadays I would have to say I have seen better panto sets than this.
The sense of postwar skimp extended to the costumes which often appeared drab and ordinary.
The other reason for complaint was the very ordinary conducting with many of the moments in Tchaikovsky's matchless score going for nothing. Also several key points which should sync perfectly with dance moves were missed. Worst of these was the chord which should match the pirouette into arabesque in the Grand Pas before the slow arabesque penchee.
The first Carabosse scene was fatally reduced in impact by the conducting. I actually missed the "she shall die" moment as I was so unengaged. Gillian Revie was actually quite good as Carabosse (although I prefer a man in drag in this part) but her strange costume (More Carry on Screaming or 60's fringe party than Evil Fairy) did her no favours.
The transformation scene at the close of Act continued the cheap theme with a few featureless cutcloths tracking in. By this point I was praying for the return of the much maligned Dowell/Bjornson production.
The dancing was all to a good standard but without much individual stamp being put on the roles. The wonderful sequence of Fairy variations passed without remark. Even the grand variation for the Lilac Fairy (which has the potential to thrill) aroused little excitement in me (or the remainder of the audience)
Rupert Pennefather was a good Prince without ever making more of the role than that. Admittedly the production gives him no help in this. The crucial confrontation bewtween good and evil near the climax of Act 2 goes for nothing in this version as there is no sense that the result could go either way.
So the one shining light of the evening was Tamaro Rojo's Aurora. She surmounts every mountainous challenge of this role with apparent ease. She pirouettes on point better than most men do on flat - I think the last pirouette in the diagonal section of the Act 1 variation was a Quintuple turn! If only she had had a better frame in which to shine. The sooner this production is junked the better!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The end is nigh!

And so to the final performance of the pantomime followed by a lovely get-out in the perishing cold. MMMMM!
And only 11 months till it all starts again....

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Cardiff Miserables

Having seen this and had time to collate my thoughts here are a few of them.

Firstly the design is very different from the original. The designers have used a combination of Hugo's own paintings and some new (Dore influenced) plates. These are projected using a highly sophisticated system and look very fine. However the combination of what is essentially projected "cloths" and solid scenery actually conveys a rather traditional and conventional stage picture. It is certainly less interesting and fluid than Naper's groundbreaking original designs. However the simplifying of the set and the loss of the revolve and large barricade trucks make a production which can be loaded in and out in a much shorter timeframe than the old touring set. Money talks....
I found the direction of the new team adequate but no more. They have clearly absorbed some of the complexities of Hugo's vast work but this has led them to add some spoken lines which are inserted (rather hurriedly) into gaps in the through sung score. The lines are meant to illuminate aspects not covered by the existing score but for me they emphatically do not work as they feel forced in the context of a through sung piece. A pity that some proper re-composition couldn't have been effected.
So much of the direction just fails to add anything new to Nunn and Caird's extraordinary original. A typical example is the suicide of Javert which is quite a complex sequence in this version. It is reasonably effective but compared to the brilliant simplicity of the original solution it fails to come up trumps.
The sound was for the main part good with a full, fat sound picture. My only quibble was occasional odd sounds from relay speakers which almost felt like an effect without the original source - Odd.
I was slightly disappointed with Paule Constable's lighting. She is a designer I usually admire enormously but here she seemed so intent on not aping David Hersey's iconic original look that she failed to put her own stamp on it. Incidentally (IMHO) the use of roving lights to signify the shots at the barricade does not work at all - They just look like searchlights which is incongruous in a work set in 1832.
The cast are mainly good without being exceptional. John Owen Jones is an effective and well sung Valjean (an ugly breath before the final note of "Bring him home" excepted) but for me he just misses the titanic emotions that Colm Wilkinson brought to the part. Best of the bunch is Earl Carpenter's Javert who is almost on the same level as Philip Quast (I can't think of higher praise in this part). The Thenardiers go some way to reversing the misconception of the roles as merely comedy parts. Anyone who has read Hugo will understand how wrong this view is. Unfortunately they are still saddled with the school of panto costumes for the Wedding scene - I sense the hand of Mackintosh here!
So to sum up - This is a worthy attempt at a re-think of the original which will allow the producers to take it into theatres previously unable to host the show. But it is unlikely to replace the groundbreaking original in the longterm.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Miserable Cardiff?

Off today to Cardiff (really, really looking forward to the drive down!!)to see the new production of Les Mis at the WMC. Rather conflicted feelings. I worked on the third year of the original production when it was particularly strongly cast (Peter Karrie, Phil Quast, Barry James and Linzi Hateley amongst the principals)and the original production is an absolute classic in terms of direction and design. Can a new production offer a valid alternative or is it just going to be a pallid re-imagining?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Weh! Weh!

Still no answer from Bayreuth. I am starting to lose hope.....

CARMEN in New York

Richard Eyre's new CARMEN in New York looks stunning! Click on the title to link to the pictures