King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 13th February 2019
“accessible and contemporary, whilst still including the powerful singing and acting operas are known for”
In a new English version of a classic, much-loved opera, Carmen (Jane Monari) is portrayed as a young woman working minimum wage jobs on the “front-line of Britain’s crumbling service industry”. Jose (Mike Bradley), written as a soldier in the original opera, is a hospital nurse who falls madly in love with Carmen. Add the romantic interest of famous footballer Escamillio (Dan D’Souza), originally portrayed as a bullfighter, into the mix and you have a passionate tale of love, jealousy and toxic relationships, British audiences of today should be able to relate to on many levels.
As the overture begins, played on just two keyboards, the dark nature of what we are about to see is immediately made clear. Carmen slowly emerges from the audience, with the two other characters then joining her on stage as part of a dimly lit, intense opening sequence.
During the first half of the performance, which is arguably more light-hearted than the second, we see Carmen and Jose’s relationship develop. This is then hindered by the introduction of Escamillio, who arrives at the karaoke bar Carmen works in. Passions ignited, Carmen is torn when Jose must go on the run after stealing thousands of pounds worth of drugs from the hospital he and Carmen used to work in, and wants her to join him. Carmen accepts, but soon realises she may have made a mistake, as darker times ensue.
Set and lighting design by Anna Lewis and David Doyle is effective and enhances the mood of the production. Furthermore, the props used are in keeping with its modern feel. Direction by Mary Franklin is polished, with smooth transitions between scenes and accomplished performances from those on stage.
This version of Carmen is ideal for those who have perhaps never thought to go and see an opera. You may be put off by their usual length or have simply decided they’re not for you. Think again. This production is accessible and contemporary, whilst still including the powerful singing and acting operas are known for. Running at just under two hours, including an interval, it won’t be a late finish, either.
Reviewed by Emily K Neal
Photography by Nick Rutter
King’s Head Theatre until 9th March
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