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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

In offering proof that Kafka is everything to everyone - writer-performer Jack Klaff plays various roles, including the man himself in what is a part tour, part immersion and part legend of Franz Kafka. He is a writer who achieved fame after his life was cut short due to succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of forty. He is probably better known for his reputation and the Kafkaesque style attributed to his writing than his life. But after this piece, you’re left curious to learn more about the man and his works. And that has to be the best theatrical tribute you could give a writer, even for a writer who stipulated that his works be destroyed upon his death. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. In 1901, he was admitted to a university and began studying law. While studying, he met Max Brod, who would become his best friend and eventual literary executor. Brod would posthumously publish many of his works and writings. Kafka’s life co

Those underground Italian girls: L’Italiana In Algeri @popupoperauk

Popup Opera’s second summer show is full of energy, enthusiasm and some fine singing… Even if it is a rather silly show, it is great to see a piece that has not been performed in London for a while in such an unusual space.

This minimalist opera group has pared back Rossini’s work and taken away all that business of harems and bad Turks. Instead it moves the story to a modern day den on iniquity - Las Vegas - and the Algiers Hotel.

Popup Opera’s unusual choice of venues and performing lesser known works (with a modern twist) is a great introduction to opera.  Silly plotted operas work well with this format and so moving the piece to Vegas gives the tale of gambling, infidelity and cheap thrills a new dimension. Although perhaps a few cuts in the second half to bring things to a quicker conclusion might help.

There are two casts that perform the show. On Tuesday night we had the lovely Catrin Woodruff as the faded showgirl Elvira and Helen Stanley as the strong and feisty Italian-American lover of Lindoro. Oliver Brignall as the hero Lindoro with his clear vocals and wonderful phrasing was also a delight. Rounding out the cast was Bruno Loxton as Mustafa, Oskar McCarthy as Taddeo and Amy Payne as Zulma.

Keeping everything together was the ever resourceful regular Popup Opera MD Berrak Dyer, with just an electric piano as the accompaniment and a sometimes unforgiving acoustic that only a round brick tunnel shaft with a metal roof can provide.

Still the venue provided plenty of atmosphere and not just from the regular rumbles from the adjacent London Overground line. Apart from the experience of entering the space through a teeny tiny opening (and descending temporary stairs to get to the ground floor), there was a sense that the space fitted the Vegas theme particularly well. I had the opportunity to walk through parts of Vegas last year and I could see the parallels with the veneer of glamour and decaying structures surrounded by freeways.

Of course Popup Opera will be playing the piece at far more civilised locations throughout the summer. They are back in the shaft in July if you want the true underground experience, but check their website for other locations.


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