Theatre Reviews 

25 May

Frankenstein

Royal Opera House

 

Choreography: Liam Scarlett

Music: Lowell Liebermann

Designer: John Macfarlane

Lighting designer: David Finn

Projection designer: Finn Ross

I saw the new ballet Frankenstein at the Royal Opera House, which is the venue where I have decided to stage my final project, the Rheingold by Richard Wagner.

The ballet by Liam Scarlett, is based on Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel and tells the story of Victor Frankenstein who succeeds in giving life to non-living matter, and makes a living creature but in the end it leades to a tragic fate.

This was actually the first time I saw a full length ballet on a big stage, so I can’t say I’m an expert on ballet. But nevertheless guess I was expecting something less traditional, as this is a new ballet, new music, new design - and a great story that offers a lot of possibilities, and I think it could have reach further "out of the box". John Macfarlane’s designs were nevertheless beautiful, blending precise naturalistic detail with painted backdrops, and the costumes were great. I specially liked the labratory set in the first scene.

Overall I enjoyed the performance and it was very useful to see a production in the space I am going to use for my final project.

 

 

 

27 May

The Joke

Camden People’s Theatre

 

The Joke is a short, funny play, devised by Will Adamsdale, Lloyd Hutchinson and Brian Logan and designed by Michael Vale. It tells the story about an Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman that get trapped on the stage. They want to get out but it seems the only option to is create a joke. They are not just stuck onstage, they are also stuck inside a painfully corny and possibly racist gag.

I found the play very funny and Like Michael described, it was a good example of a “non-design” design.

 

 

 

31 May

Madame Butterfly

English National Opera

 

Music: Giacomo Puccini

Conductor: Sir Richard Armstrong

Director: Anthony Minghella

Set designer: Michael Levine

Costume designer: Han Feng

Lighting designer: Peter Mumford

 

My aim this term is to see as much opera as I can, as I am designing for an opera for my final project. I got a ticket to see Madame Butterfly at the ENO. The music is beautiful and I also liked the setting. It was very simple, and the lighting played a big role in creating the atmosphere. The design and costumes beautifully evoked the picture of 19th century Japan meeting the harsh reality of American values which underlies the story. There is one child’s role in the opera, which was performed by three puppeteers manipulating a beautiful puppet. The movement and gestures of the young child were beautiful and captured the agony of the situation.

 

 

 

29 June

Tristan and Isolde

English National Opera

 

Music and libretto: Richard Wagner

Conductor: Edward Gardner

Director: Daniel Kramer

Set designer: Anish Kapoor

Costume designer: Christina Cunningham

Lighting designer: Paul Anderson

Video designer: Frieder Wiess

 

It was amazing to experience a Wagner opera on stage for the first time. The dramatic myth of Tristan and Isolde’s love story, told in a 5-hour music drama, was fascinating, but in my opinion very long for a modern audience. I really liked the settings by Anish Kapoor, which were very atmospheric, but on the other hand did not much to help our understanding of the drama. Act I had a tripartite set, with the central section used only at the end when King Marke’s courtiers, then the King himself, briefly appear. The sightlines were difficult, and I was glad my seat was in the middle of the row. Act II seemed to take place in a volcano, of which the audience were given a bird’s-eye view. I especially liked when video images were projected onto the sculpture. Act III had a gaping wound in a white wall, over which Tristan’s blood spread and was rather impressive.

 

 

 

30 June

Flew the Coop

New Diorama Theatre

 

I am currently collaborating with Lost Watch Theatre company on a puppet show for children that will be shown in Iceland in April 2017. I went to see their new production, Flew the Coop, at the New Diorama Incoming Festival. The play is inspired by the true story of Silesian translator Rosa Rauchbach and Horace Greasley, the British prisoner of war who escaped over 200 times to see her. The play is in a storytelling style, fast and fun, but at the same time they manage to keep it serious where it is appropriate. The costumes are the same for all actors, green shorts and black shirts, which suite the style, and brooms and buckets serve in clever way, both as guns, vehicles and cleaning tools.

 

1 July

In Parenthesis 

Royal Opera House

 

Music: Iain Bell

Libretto: David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins (after David Jones)

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi

Director: David Pountney

Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins

Lighting designer: Malcom Rippeth

 

In Parenthesis is a new opera by the Welsh National Opera. It is the British composer’s Iain Bell adaption of the epic poem by poet, David Jones, where private John Ball and his comrades are posted to the Somme. The score combines traditional Welsh song with moments of other-worldliness, terror, humour and transcendence.

I have to admit that I didn’t really enjoy the opera much. I found it long and similar throughout. The fact that there were no actual main characters that you could connect or sympathy with, caused that this sad and horrible story did not touch me as it should have. The design was true to the period, but clearly originally designed for a smaller stage, so it felt very small on the huge stage of the Opera house.

 

15 July

Il Trovatore

Royal Opera House

 

Music: Giuseppe Verdi

Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda

Director: David Bösch

Set designer: Patrick Bannwart

Costume designer: Neentje Nielsen

Lighting designer: Olaf Winter

 

I saw a new production by David Bösch of Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera house. Overall I enjoyed the production, that puts the story foremost in striking and evocative settings that combine the brutal and the poetic in a contemporary landscape scarred by civil war. Patrick Bannwart’s set displays spindly trees which bear huge white blossoms. Anguished faces, reeling crows and fluttering moths glow and fade on the cartoon video projections. Azucena’s gipsy band becomes a circus troupe, and Manrico the troubadour appears as a leather-jacketed beat poet. Di Luna’s soldiers cling to a tank, but duels are fought with knives. Visions emerge out of smouldering fires.

In a review of the opera Rupert Christiansen says, and I must say I agree with him: “For a while such imagery works wonders, creating an atmosphere in which the canons of ordinary reality do not apply. There are few indulgences or excesses (a brief selfie joke is pardonable). But about half way through, the heart goes out of it. Resorting to cascades of snowflakes and similar clichés isn’t imagination but desperation, and one eventually realises that Bösch has no more idea what to make of this farrago than the rest of us. As the conception drifts and the poetry palls, the poor old cast is left to stand and deliver.”

 

14 July

Sunset at the Villa Thalia

National Theatre

 

Author: Alexi Kaye Campbell

Director: Simon Godwin

Designer: Hildegard Bechtler

Lighting Designer: Natasha Chivers

 

Sunset at the Villa Thalia is a new play by Alexi Kaye Campbell directed by Simon Godwin. The setting is the terrace of a tumbledown peasant cottage on the island of Skiathos. The first act takes place in 1967, on the day that the right-wing military junta seizes control; the second act takes place in 1976, after the fall of the colonels and a couple of years into the transition to democracy. It tells the story of Charlotte and Theo who have retreated to the small island in search of peace and inspiration, but when they meet a charismatic American couple at the port they are seduced into making choices with devastating consequences.

The set and costumes were very naturalistic and true to the time period. The design was in my opinion not bad, but could have been made much more fun to watch by reaching further out of the box.

© 2019 Eva Bjorg Hardardottir