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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

I'm OK you're OK: Death Row Cowboy @CourtyardHoxton

Death Row Cowboy, which has just finished a short run at the Courtyard Theatre is a gritty and realistic piece of writing that leaves you wondering if it was based on a real life incident. But of course if that were the case there would need to be a different ethnic makeup of the cast, given that the majority of inmates on death row are not white...

But real life is less important than the character study of the three key people in the piece. Carl, who is on death row, prison officer Bobby and a police officer’s widow Hillary. It is written by Andrew Lynch and Mark McCabe who play Carl and Bobby and serves as a vehicle to explore some intriguing themes on relationships, loneliness, love and regret.

The piece opens with 18 year old Carl dialing 911 and calmly telling the operator he has just shot his mother and a police officer. The operator’s motherly reactions reassure Bobby that everything is going to be okay, but five years later he is on death row.

As the execution date draws closer, Hillary reaches out to Bobby, an old school mate and prison officer to seek closure on the death of her husband. As a series of letters are exchanged more questions are raised rather than answered, and the motivations of the three characters are called into question.

The piece works best when the drama is focused on the three leads, with their emotions captured in intricate and realistic detail and wonderful performances (which also manage to provide some very realistic American accents).

Lynch as Carl is at first enigmatic. He plays the role as a man resigned to his fate but when he sees his fellow inmate dragged off to be executed he has second thoughts and sets in motion a series of reactions that lead to the plays dark conclusion. And by this point his character has evolved from the self described naturally evil person we assume he is after the murders.

McCabe as the always upbeat prison warden Bobby is excellent as the clever hero and nice-guy of the piece; always wanting to help out without seeming to have any ulterior motivation for doing so. Rose O’Loughlin is emotionally intense as the very young widow Hillary Reece, who cannot stop questioning the events of five years earlier.

This work was produced in Dublin last year and after a two week run it has had its UK premiere. I suspect this will not be its last...


First impressions with @johnnyfoxlondon follow...

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