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Love is all you need: The Island @cervantesthtr

A drama set on the seventh floor of a non-descript hospital waiting room may not be everyone's idea of a great night at the theatre. But love and all other forms of the human condition are dissected in Juan Carlos Rubio's The Island. Translated by Tim Gutteridge, it feels like everything is up for grabs. What is love? Is it a bond between two women with a fifteen-year age gap? Is it the love between a mother and her son with a severe unknown disability? A wonderful life full of health and happiness is not always an option on the menu, and the choices may become a bit less palatable. Throughout a series of sometimes banal conversations, what comes out is a story of two women with lives that are separate and together. And while the piece becomes darker on one level as it progresses, it never ceases to fascinate and draw further insights into the couples. It's currently playing at the Cervantes Theatre .  A couple waits in a hospital waiting room for the outcome of an accident

Vocations and executions: Dialogues Des Carmélites @TheRoyalOpera

A simple, and at times bare, staging of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues Des Carmélites makes for a memorable and moving production at the Royal Opera.

While an opera about the martyrdom of Carmelite nuns during the Reign of Terror, is not going to be everyone's idea of a fun night out, a combination of fine singing, dramatic music and a beautiful production make it a night to remember.

The piece is about the journey of Blanche, who leaves her aristocratic upbringing to join the Carmelite nuns, against the backdrop of the Reign of Terror and the nationalisation of all religious property (it helps to know your French Revolution history to appreciate the forces at work here).

It is hard not to find the finale where the nuns sing Salve Regina while walking to the guillotine, incredibly dramatic and moving. As each of the nuns in the order are executed the music soars and a guillotine sound effect booms throughout the house. Even presented as a stylised execution it still manages to shock.

This is a piece where women's voices dominate, but adding to the drama is a larger orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle and an enormous cast to create a constant feeling of tension and menace. The cast includes the Royal Opera House Community Ensemble which has enlisted people who have experienced homelessness, the criminal justice system and unemployment as volunteers to fill out the numbers for this epic piece.

Robert Carsen's production, which is from the 1997 Dutch National Opera and having its premiere at the Royal Opera, is a welcome change from his recent effort to modernise Falstaff to 1950s Britain, which had audiences booing.

A preview from a previous presentation of it is available here.

Dialogues Des Carmélites runs until 11 June and tickets are available for all shows.

Photo credit: Production photo by ROH/Stephen Cummiskey 2014

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