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Bear with me: Sun Bear @ParkTheatre

If The Light House is an uplifting tale of survival, Sarah Richardson’s Sun Bear gives a contrasting take on this. Sarah plays Katy. We’re introduced to Katy as she runs through a list of pet office peeves with her endlessly perky coworkers, particularly about coworkers stealing her pens. It’s a hilarious opening monologue that would have you wishing you had her as a coworker to help relieve you from the boredom of petty office politics.  But something is not quite right in the perfect petty office, where people work together well. And that is her. And despite her protesting that she is fine, the pet peeves and the outbursts are becoming more frequent. As the piece progresses, maybe the problem lies in a past relationship, where Katy had to be home by a particular hour, not stay out late with office colleagues and not be drunk enough not to answer his calls. Perhaps the perky office colleagues are trying to help, and perhaps Katy is trying to reach out for help. It has simple staging

Opera: Simon Boccanegra

It was interesting to try and attempt to transplant Genoa from the 1300s to the 1960s in this ENO production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. It does not quite work, but it still looks so sophisticated and hip you can probably overlook this and feel smug anyway. Unless of course you were the lady next to me who was unwell five minutes before the end of the first half and fell over my man bag running for the exits. But I digress...

There is some beauty in this production as tableaus become images and spectacle abounds. Although if you have been to Genoa and seen the palaces that the Doges - who were elected for life and were among the leading merchant families of the region - it makes it a bit hard to comprehend why everyone was moving about in grey suits and minimalist sets.

The opera itself is fairly convoluted and requires descriptions projected onto curtains between scenes just so you have a vague chance of understanding what is going on. So the modern transplanting of the opera does not make things easier, nor does the less than inspired translation. The last time I saw this opera I recall the setting having more to do with 19th century Italy than the period of the 1300s that Boccanegra lived. It probably makes more sense with Verdi's nationalism and occasionally grand romantic arias that pervade throughout the piece. If there is a central message in this piece, it surely must be something along the lines of "can't we all get along and stop trying to poison each other", which must have resonated well for Verdi's contemporaries...

Despite some reservations, there are some strong performances in the piece including by Brindley Sherratt as Fiesco - the man who lost his daughter to Boccanegra, and Maisie Turpie as Maria, Boccanegra's lost daughter. Family intrigue trumps the mild political intrigue and infighting in this piece and their performances work well here. The rousing chorus and orchestra also rose to the occasion of melodrama. It runs until 7 July at the London Coliseum, and part of the essential Verdi experience... I'm not sure if this opera is essential Verdi, but worthwhile all the same...

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