Posts Tagged ‘ Barbican ’

Theatrigirl’s highlights, 13-19 September

Edward Bond Season – Olly’s Prison, Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn

The first play in the eagerly anticipated Edward Bond season at the Cock Tavern, which will culminate with the premiere of a new play. Famed for the violent and controversial subjects of his work, Bond is one of the most important living British playwrights. Olly’s Prison examines a father-daughter relationship gone horribly wrong.

Olly’s Prison: 14 Sep-2 Oct
Edward Bond Season:14 Sep-13 Nov

The Human Comedy, The Young Vic

Set in a small town California during the second World War, The Human Comedy is a coming-of-age story complete with musical numbers. This production, directed by John Fulljames boasts a “Community Chorus” of 80 in addition to the principal roles. The stage might get a bit cosy!

13-18 Sep

Faust at ENO opens this week

Les Misérables, Barbican

To celebrate this ridiculously successful musical’s 25th anniversary, a different cast are bringing the show to the Barbican for a few nights only. A chance to see this hugely popular musical for a more reasonable price!

14 Sep-2 Oct

Krapp’s Last Tape, Duchess Theatre

Good, solid Beckettian stuff: gloom, doom and a funny bit with a banana. With Michael Gambon as the eponymous Krapp, this existential monologue should have plenty of gravitas and absurdity.

15 Sep-20 Nov

Faust, by Gounod, Barbier and Carré, after Goethe, ENO at the London Coliseum

Goethe’s tale of the man who wanted to know everything there was to know gets the operatic treatment courtesy of this new production at ENO. Edward Gardner conducts while Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) directs a modern-dress production.

18 Sep-16 Oct

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Angels in America

Peter Eötvös
Based on the play by Tony Kushner
Libretto by Mari Mezei
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Barbican, 26th March

More Life. The final words of Mari Mezei’s libretto, adapted from Tony Kushner’s play are also its moral. The earth is in its latter days, God has walked out on heaven and the pestilence ravages the globe. Peter Eötvös has taken Tony Kushner’s epic six hour, two part drama and made it into a single opera. The story has, inevitably, been simplified and focuses on two couples: one gay, Prior and Louis; one straight(ish), Harper and Joe. Prior has AIDS and at the crisis of his illness, an angel appears to him and names him as a prophet.

Extravagance, exuberance and exaggeration are at the heart of this ‘Gay Fantasia on National Themes’. The transition from supra-theatrical play to opera, then, is easy and logical: lines such as ‘beautiful systems dying, old fixed orders spiralling apart’ are so lyrical that they demand to be set to music. Mezei’s libretto maintains the sense of fragility and frailty that is so central to Kushner’s play and Eötvös’ music works with the text to enhance its sense of being close to a precipice.

The protagonist, a kind of modern tragic hero, is Prior. David Adam Moore sings his part like a wounded animal; the audience can’t help but warm to him. In an absurd but wonderful stroke from director, David Gately, the scenes with the angel are staged as parodies of the Annunciation, with Prior as a sullen and sceptical Virgin Mary.  Despite the grim circumstances of the action, there are flashes of humour to dispel the gloom thanks to Brian Asawa’s darkly comic Belize, (‘Don’t go crazy on me, girlfriend, I already got enough crazy queens for one lifetime. For two’), perhaps unsurprisingly sung by a countertenor .

Harper is sung in heart-breaking soprano by Julia Migenes who has all the frailty of the sparrow in winter. Eötvös writes swooping, unpredictable melodies for the character – exquisitely highlighting Harper’s ephemeral and brittle nature. Migenes effortlessly steals each scene she’s in. The Angel, thrillingly sung by Ava Pine, calls herself ‘The Pulse, the Pull, the Throb, the Ooze’ and is accordingly given melodies which pulse repeatedly on the same note or rapidly alternate between notes. The BBC symphony orchestra, conducted impeccably by David Robertson, plays the fiendishly difficult music confidently and enthusiastically: the violins tremble with the fragile Harper, the trumpets glory in the Angel’s glissandi and the percussionist gamely dashes between instruments.

Eötvös and Mezei’s decision to make one opera from two plays results in a tighter, tidier moral for the text. A criticism frequently levelled at Kushner’s play is that it focuses on the plight of white, middle-class AIDS sufferers and disregards the millions of sufferers in the third world, for the sake of a cosy ending. Eötvös’ opera lifts an earlier speech about ‘people who live through much worse’ and puts it at the end. Thus, we have a happy (if unexplained) ending and gain a Good Moral to go with it; we lose, however, something of the fascinating complexity of Kushner’s text

Kushner’s Angels in America was always too expansive for the stage: it needed music. Eötvös’ opera, far from distracting from the original story,  clarifies Kushner’s words and aids his original yearning for transcendence: ‘You are  fabulous creatures, each and every one…More Life

You can listen to this performance on Radio 3’s Performance on 3 on 7th April

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