Immigrants getting the job done: Carmen @KingsHeadThtr

Carmen can survive being messed about. After all she’s wearing a gorilla suit at the Royal Opera's current production. Here she’s an immigrant working in a bar,selling NHS drugs on the side and picking up footballers to make ends meet. It’s a grittier, funnier take on Bizet’s opera complete with some fine singing. And it’s currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre.

This version by Mary Franklin and Ashley Pearson is like La Tragédie de Carmen, adapted by Peter Brook in the early 1980s. Both dispense with a large ensemble to focus on the love triangle. But in this English version there’s more laughs. Albeit against a grim backdrop of low paid jobs, living out of cars and footballers looking for cheap thrills. You’re never quite sure if you should be laughing or recoiling from the comedy-drama unfolding as the vocals are soaring. But then again comedy is tragedy plus time...

The role of Carmen is shared. I saw it played by American Mezzo Soprano Jane Monari. Her Carmen is a sweet, resourceful woman. So much so that you’re led to believe her acts of seduction are part of the life of someone who is just about managing.

Tenor Roger Paterson with his strong voice makes for a convincing Jose. Here as an NHS nurse who takes the rap for stealing drugs and then becomes Carmen’s tormentor.

Dan D’Souza makes for a dashing and charismatic Escamillio. Although it might have been more inspired (and believable) to make him a footballer in a lower division.

Under the music direction of Juliane Gallant and sound designer David Eaton they create an evocative soundscape that makes you forget this is a small scale production.

Directed by Mary Franklin, Carmen is at the Kings Head Theatre until 9 March.


Photos by Nick Rutter

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