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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

Ginger and oiled: The Clockmakers Daughter @LandorTheatre

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is an exciting new piece of musical theatre, full of promise and some terrific music. It has landed at the Landor Theatre and with its charm, strong performances and production values, it will no doubt keep enthralling audiences.

What is most intriguing is how this original work by Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn, appears so fully formed and seemingly ready to move on to bigger or better things after the London fringe.

The piece is an original story and music set in the fictional Irish town of Spindlewood. In the present-day Spindlewood there is a tradition of ‘The Turning of the Key’ each year on the last night of winter. And so begins the story of the origins of this tradition.

The local town clockmaker (played by Lawrence Carmichael) is struck with grief after the loss of his wife. So he creates a mechanical version of her using the parts in his workshop. But with a bit of magic she becomes more real than he ever would imagine. He calls her Constance and begins to teach her about the world.

But as Constance learns more, she wants to go to the outside world, and while the clockmaker is away she seizes the opportunity. She soon finds herself wanting to please and help people and winning over the hearts of the local townspeople. Well, most of the townspeople. After proving she can sew and make a dress better than the local dressmakers she starts to unwittingly make a few enemies, which is only made worse when Constance falls in love with the dressmaker’s son, Will.

The strong performances by the leads, Jennifer Harding as Constance and Alan McHale as Will, ground this piece. Harding as Constance is more than just an automaton as the girl wanting to learn and wanting to belong. McHale as the sweet natured Will makes a credible transformation in the piece from the shop boy to a leading man.

It is a new take on the genre of fairy tales that is built around prejudice, discrimination and fear of the unknown. So perhaps even with its eighteenth century setting it feels quite modern for these times about endless debates around immigration, low productivity and better skilled workers (Constance could knock out a dress in half the time the local workforce could so no wonder she wasn't that popular).

The music is fusion of musical theatre styles and Irish music and  performed particularly well by the large cast assembled of this work.

And while the piece feels like an almost fully fledged piece of musical theatre, that is not to say it could do with a bit more development. Constance’s relationship with her “maker” wavers between the fatherly to the creepy, and more could be made of the friendship with local townswoman Amelia. It could also do with the removal of a few superfluous scenes in the first half.

Nevertheless it is an impressive achievement and yet another fine production from the Landor Theatre. And the company pointed out on twitter yet another benefit of seeing the show...

It runs until 4 July. Go see it even if you're not mad about gingers...


Photo credits: Poppy Carter

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