Posts Tagged ‘Neil Armfield’

The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre, October 2012

30 October, 2012

This David Hare play focuses on two moments in Oscar Wilde’s relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). One is at the Cadogan Hotel during the day leading up to his arrest, the other in Naples after his release from prison.

Bosie, Robbie, Wilde

The audience found several of Wilde’s lines amusingly witty, and some of Bosie’s breathtakingly narcissistic. This obnoxious young man was well portrayed by Freddie Fox, his admirable physique well befitting the nude scenes, though Tom Colley as Bosie’s Italian lover in Naples arguably beat him in this respect. Cal MacAninch as Robbie Ross, an ex-lover of Wilde who adores him and wants to help him, was very convincing, and the scene with the hotel servants was well played, but Rupert Everett made an unsympathetic Wilde. It’s essential to feel for him, otherwise the play rather loses its point.

Everett as Wilde

In an interview in the programme, David Hare is asked why he picked the two moments he did, and to what extent the dialogue was Hare’s own invention — the answer is most of it. Among numerous other questions and answers, the one asking what the author was trying to achieve is absent: was the intention to explain Wilde’s demise, was it to grieve over a relationship that halted Wilde’s creative genius, or was there some other purpose? However, in an article by Wilde’s only grandson — well worth the price of the programme — Merlin Holland wishes he could ask his grandfather one single question, ’Why on earth did you do it?’ suing Bosie’s father, landing himself in gaol and allowing society to rid itself of a rebel “who called into question … the hypocrisy of those social, sexual and literary values upon which Victorian society was so firmly based”.

The creative team that put this on has done a terrific job. Fine direction by Neil Armfield with excellent designs and costumes by Dale Ferguson and Sue Blaine, and clever lighting by Rick Fisher that allows the audience to experience the passing of many hours as Wilde sits almost immobilised.

Bosie and lover

Time waits for no man, but at the end of this play it seems that Wilde is waiting for time so it can annihilate him. I would have preferred more depth.

Performances at Richmond continue until November 3 — for details click here — after which it goes to the Theatre Royal Brighton, November 5–10, before opening in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 17 January 2013 (previews from 9 January).

The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Opera Australia, Sydney Opera House, July 2010

31 July, 2010

The revival of this co-production with the Welsh National Opera was very much a team effort, with excellent singing all round. Teddy Tahu Rhodes was particularly good as a strongly voiced yet surprisingly vulnerable Figaro. So often this character comes over as all too knowing, never seriously fearing for the loss of Susanna’s love, but here he showed natural human frailty on this extraordinarily crazy day — indeed an earlier title for this Mozart opera was The Crazy Day. It’s one of his three great collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, who knowing he could not get away with Figaro’s rant against the aristocracy in the original play by Beaumarchais, replaces it with a rant against the perfidy of women. So it’s only natural that Figaro feels himself vulnerable. And with the Susanna of Taryn Fiebig, who sang with a lovely tone and charming air of spontaneity, the main couple was perfect.

The Countess and Count, photo by Branco Gaica

Peter Coleman-Wright as the Count was excellent, both vocally and in his passionate yet superficial desire for Susanna, while still apparently very attracted to the Countess. This was a Count of some complexity, and Rachelle Durkin portrayed a statuesque Countess, singing strongly, though with a little more vibrato than I care for. Half a head taller than Susanna, she managed to decrease her height admirably when they changed clothes in Act IV, and I only wish the designer Dale Ferguson had given her a decent wig, rather than a modern frizz of cultivated wild abandon. This was probably all part of the deliberately anachronistic touches, such as the flash camera, and one or two other things inserted into an eighteenth century environment, but the hair was frightful.

Kanen Breen’s very camp portrayal of Don Basilio was witty, though almost over the top, but that was evidently intentional, and Warwick Fyfe as Dr. Bartolo, with Jacqueline Dark as Marcelina, were rather touching, though his wig made him look absurd. Clifford Plumpton was wonderful as the gardener, entirely believable and not the irascible drunkard he sometimes appears, and Claire Lyon as his daughter Barbarina was gorgeous. The role of Cherubino is always a difficult one — a young woman pretending to be a young man who at one point dresses as a girl — but Sian Pendry’s movements were too girlish, though the costume, which showed her hips all too clearly, didn’t help. And I did think that exhibiting testosterone by banging the ironing board was over the top, though that was presumably the idea of director Neil Armfield, or associate director Roger Press.

The Count begs forgiveness at the end, photo by Branco Gaica

The main thing is that Patrick Summers did a fine job with the orchestra, keeping in touch with the singers while moving things forward at a good pace and bringing out the light and shade in the music.

Performances continue until 23 October, with cast and conductor changes starting in September — for more details click here.