Well Worth a Visit

Theatre Collection presents The Visit at The Lord Stanley, Camden

The Visit opens with optimism: the citizens of Gullen are looking forward to the arrival of one of their own and hoping she will spread some of her good fortune around her old town.  But, immediately upon her arrival, it becomes apparent that Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world, is used to always getting what she wants – and what she wants now is murder.

Nicholas Humphrey’s thought-provoking direction builds a sense of menace right from the outset, using sound, movement and, in particular, repetition to contribute to the aura of unavoidable impending doom.  The characters of the blind eunuchs (Christopher Dowling and Carlos Mapano) add to this considerably, as does the slightly unusual use of physical theatre, when the actors’ bodies transform but their faces remain very much in character.

Madlena Nedeva, as Claire, gave a credible portrayal of wealth and world-weariness, and Danny Reyntiens, as her old lover Ill, was consistently watchable throughout, especially approaching the end as he became resigned to his fate.  Fiona Watson’s Teacher was particularly sympathetically played, and I would love to have seen more of Erin Siobhan, whose various parts were short but significant.  For my money, the best female performance came from Penelope Day, who maintained a marvellous contrast between the Police Officer and Matilda Ill.

Although there was comedy in the play from the outset (“my father built those public toilets”), particularly in Clive Alexander’s quirky portrayal of husbands 7, 8 and 9, it was mostly overshadowed by the growing sense of claustrophobia.  The main exception was the scene with the reporters in Act II, where Ian MacNaughton excelled.  In contrast to his serious and slightly macabre portrayal of the ex-judge in Act I, Ian’s reporter was fun and lively in a game-show host way, using vocal range, movement and a brilliantly expressive face to give us the funniest scene in the play – just moments before its sinister denouement.

Overall, this is a very good production.  The tension builds exponentially and ends in a dramatic climax.  Nothing is overdone or overstated, and the audience leaves with plenty to talk about!  Try and catch one of the last three performances if you possibly can.

The Visit is at The Lord Stanley, 51 Camden Park Road, NW1 9BH on 14, 20 and 21 May at 7.30pm.  For tickets visit www.theatrecollection.net or call 07966 597190.

Mary Tynan

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Pop Goes the Tunnel

Don PasqualePopup Opera Present Don Pasquale at The Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe

If I were the vindictive type, I’d use this review to get revenge for being shot in the eye with a water pistol!  But I’m not and I won’t.  Instead I will say that Popup Opera gave their usual superb performance: something I have come to expect after attending only one of their previous shows.

The company have become adept at adapting to different spaces and maximising the advantages of each situation.  The tunnel shaft at the Brunel Museum is completely unlike the small room in a private club where I watched L’elisir D’amore. Reached by crawling through a hole and climbing down a scaffold, this cathedral-like space with its marvellous acoustics allowed the cast to give full reign to their vocal talents.  Raúl Baglietto gave a solid professional vocal performance as Don Pasquale, and, as the main character, did a wonderful job of holding the show together.  Visually, he portrayed the Don’s emotions in a very realistic manner, despite the overall comic feel of the piece.  Cliff Zammit Stevens’ (Ernesto) tenor was once again piercingly sweet, and his exuberance as the young man in love was able to be expressed fully in this much larger space.  Ricardo Panela’s performance was even more powerful than in L’elisir D’amore, and, as the doctor whose machinations basically create the story, he was both lively and amusing.  Clementine Lovell (Norina) also used the bigger space to put her physical comedy skills to good use, and as the only woman she stole the show vocally.  Her exquisite soprano seemed to soar to the top of tunnel and encircle the audience, like a nightingale’s song suddenly appearing out of the stillness.

The cast utilised the whole of the space to implement their silent-movie comedia style, which was very effective and greatly enhanced by Harry Percival’s slick and witty captions.  This focus on the physical comedy allowed Director Darren Royston to take a much larger role in the proceedings, playing several roles, all hilarious.  We even got to hear him sing as the Notary, albeit only a couple of notes at a time.

I will leave the final words to another audience member who was attending her first ever opera:  “I thought I was going to like it, but I absolutely loved it.  I want to go again soon.  It was amazing!”

You can catch Don Pasquale as it pops up at various venues throughout May, or see the company in their summer tour of Rita/La Serva Padrona.  For more information visit popupopera.co.uk.

Mary Tynan

Don Pasquale