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Persephone's Dream

Persephone’s Dream

★★★

Online

Persephone's Dream

Persephone’s Dream

The Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd September 2020

★★★

 

“thirty minutes of appreciation of all the odd, disjunctive tricks that dreams, good and bad, can play on us”

 

Persephone’s Dream, put together from a concept and libretto by Tania Holland Williams, has been created by a company that only began working together, and then remotely, after the beginning of the pandemic. Billed as a “digital/live hybrid opera”, this piece is part of a socially distanced live performance series at the Cockpit Theatre brought together by the Tête á Tête Opera Festival. But if you missed the September 18th performance in house, or the September 22nd interactive broadcast online, don’t worry. A recording of the interactive broadcast will be available, also online, for 28 days.

Persephone’s Dream is an intriguing work, with some inspired touches. Some touches are well realized—some don’t go far enough. Given the difficult circumstances of any act of artistic creation at the moment, this is not surprising. And thirty minutes is a sensible performance time if you are performing indoors during a pandemic. But it is also a challenge if you are tackling profound subjects (including that of the pandemic itself) that need time, space (and decent lighting) to develop into something of special significance.

Persephone’s story is well known. Holland Williams takes the Greek myth as her starting point, but instead of focusing on Persephone above ground in her Spring and Summer guise, she
introduces us to Winter Persephone. This is the Persephone who spends her time in Hades, dreaming of her return to her mother, Demeter’s, world. From the confines of the underworld, Holland Williams’ libretto encourages us to make the connection with the confines of the pandemic. Persephone spends considerable time singing of pursuits like gardening and dog walking—subjects that take on a heightened significance when you are enduring winter—or lockdown. In Persephone’s Dream, we are all encouraged to dream of the things we can’t do until the end of the pandemic. It’s a bold, and engaging, concept.

Inspired touches in Persephone’s Dream include two female performers onstage, accompanied by a “Chorus of Curious Eyes”. Anna Brathwaite sings us into an appropriate dream state as Persephone, while Clare O’Connell accompanies Brathwaite with both cello and voice. In addition to singing, Brathwaite’s Persephone spends most of her time winding and unwinding herself in her remarkable costume, which includes a chess set attached to the front of it. In fact, it’s not so much a costume as a set design. (Kudos to Sarah Jane Booth, in charge of both costume, stage and digital design.) Another inspired touch is the “Chorus of Curious Eyes” which is the digital component of this opera. The Chorus is composed a mosaic of faces, projected onto a large screen. Each face, broadcast live, accompanies the action on stage in different ways. Intriguing as this is, however, much more could have been made of the Chorus. Viewers of the broadcast version online will also feel a certain frustration at being unable to see much of the detail on this screen, since the camera doing the recording is so far away.

But Persephone’s Dream is intriguing enough to be worth a visit, even viewed online. It’s thirty minutes of appreciation of all the odd, disjunctive tricks that dreams, good and bad, can play on us. A timely reminder, when we look back on these extraordinary times, at how we might remember the dreams we had while trapped in hell.

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Claire Shovelton

 

Tete a Tete


Persephone’s Dream

The Cockpit Theatre as part of Tête à Tête Opera Festival 2020 also available online

Previously reviewed by Dominica:
Jason Kravits – Off The Top | ★★★★★ | Live At Zédel | January 2020
Us Two | ★★★ | The Space | January 2020
Crybabies: Danger Brigade | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Fireworks | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Luna | ★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Our Man In Havana | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Revisor | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2020
Sky In The Pie | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
The Revenger’s Tragedy (La Tragedia Del Vendicatore) | ★★★★★ | Barbican | March 2020
The Tempest | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde 

★★★★★

Wilde Theatre, Bracknell

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell

Reviewed – 18th September 2020

★★★★★

 

“a taut psychological drama that is both true to the period whilst remaining vivid and accessible to contemporary viewers”

 

The theatrical flame was burning brightly again at Bracknell’s South Hill Park last night. Their Wilde Theatre reopened for one night only for a stylish and thrilling live and live-streamed performance of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde’.

This revival is the work of resident company, Blackeyed Theatre, and was written by its excellent Director, Nick Lane. The recording is also to be made available on demand to schools with full support materials via blackeyedtheatre.co.uk.

Robert Stevenson’s 100 page novella has been adapted into over 120 films and plays. Over 100 years since it was written, it continues to inspire new creativity and to feature on school syllabuses. Put out of your head the schlock horror of some of those earlier film versions. This is a taut psychological drama that is both true to the period whilst remaining vivid and accessible to contemporary viewers.

The show opens as the lights go up on Victoria Spearing’s cleverly expressive set. The back wall is washed in red light and a jumble of piled up cupboards functions equally well as the laboratory where Dr Jekyll carries out his wild experiments or the morgue where Mr Hyde’s victims are inspected.

Some elegantly spare writing for piano by Tristan Parkes sets the mood in the first few moments. He was musical director for both the Beijing and London Olympic Games and his fine score is consistently satisfying. New to the show is the impressive Blake Kubena as both Jekyll and Hyde. He was well-cast, both physically and for his nuanced interpretation. He cuts quite a thrilling dash as the ‘twisted’ scientist who transforms in a moment into the utterly amoral Hyde. The story’s black and white moral core is plain.

Zach Lee nicely reprised his role as lawyer Utterson. His ‘period’ clipped delivery and precise movements were shared by other supporting characters, in particular Ashley Sean-Cook as Lanyon who also has some touching scenes with Paige Round as his wife. She sang some delightful songs and like all the other members of the cast seemed to inhabit her several roles with conviction.

Jekyll’s Faustian pact must damn him forever. But will his friends be drawn in or abandon him as his life unravels? That is the heart of this exciting and recommended story.

 

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown

 


The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell.

Click here for planned tour dates for the show.

 

Last ten shows reviewed by David:
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | May 2019
Assassins | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | September 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2019
The Nutcracker | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
What’s In A Name? | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
Ten Times Table | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | January 2020
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Last Temptation Of Boris Johnson | ★★★½ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Black Veil | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | March 2020
The Wicker Husband | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | March 2020

 

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