Tag Archives: Roger Paterson

Review of La Bohème – 4 Stars


La Bohème

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 11th December 2017


“A clever, amusing libretto and interactive staging engage the audience from the start”


It is an interesting idea to transport 1830s bohemian Paris to present day life-on-the-breadline in Dalston. Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Becca Marriott’s updated take on Puccini’s classic opera, which has transferred from the King’s Head Theatre, shows the timelessness of love and emotions against a background of poverty and desperation.


A tale of the joys and sorrows of dependent relationships, it also maintains the artist’s fight for creative recognition. It cuts away the chorus, the orchestra and the traditional grandeur of an opera house, leaving only the four main characters and two musicians from the original opera in the small space of Trafalgar Studio 2. A clever, amusing libretto and interactive staging engage the audience from the start. However, while the close proximity to the singers is an intense experience, the opera’s rapid changes of moods and emotions – drama, wit, happiness, tragedy – can be oddly melodramatic. As a contemporary touch, replacing tuberculosis with drug addiction is very effective.

All four talented singers hold the stage with confidence. Thomas Isherwood as Mark has a powerful yet polished sonority as he sings of his despair for the love of the fickle Musetta. She is played by a strikingly seductive Honey Rouhani who sings with appropriate gusto (beware, front row, if you are not partial to audience participation). Becca Marriott gives a strong interpretation of Mimi, though the vitality of her voice is perhaps better suited to the fragility of her character in the second half, and she occasionally overpowers Roger Paterson (Ralph) in the duets. Vocally not as operatic but beautifully natural, he has less resonance in the upper register which, arguably, suits the intimacy of the studio. Panaretos Kyriatzidis (Musical Director) is an excellent substitute for a large-scale orchestra but William Rudge on cello, as the only other instrumentalist, lacks focus to his sound, and passion in dramatic moments, allowing the musical tension to disappear.

The simplicity of the set design (Becky-Dee Trevenen) and dimly glowing lighting (Nic Farman) portray the familiarity of the setting yet create a scene reminiscent of larger productions. Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s direction skilfully incorporates the audience into the action by making use of the whole studio, though in intense passages of quartet singing the positions of the singers can distort the harmonic balance.

La Boheme is the type of innovative production the Trafalgar Studios promotes. It is an absorbing performance that captures the essence of the grand opera style in its own miniature genre.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington 

Photography by Scott Rylander




La Bohème

is at Trafalgar Studios until 6th January 2018



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King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 14th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2


“I was stunned to see how extremely involved every single viewer was.”


If opera for you is a theatre dripping in gold, a huge symphony orchestra and a grand production, you might find yourself uncomfortable watching Tosca in the King’s Head Theatre. But If you are tired of sitting at the top of the amphitheatre in Covent Garden and you are craving to see the real human expression of this musical masterpiece, you should definitely see this emotional, and well thought through adaptation. To truly enjoy the new English production by Becca Marriott and Adam Spreadbury-Maher, you will need to leave all the snobbery aside. It is a spectacle that is meant to be intimate, straight-forward and sincere yet wonderfully ambitious.

The curiosity of the evening was of course the completely new production itself. Now set in Paris in 1944, it carried us to the world at war and Nazi tyranny. This was naturally suited to the original story of romance, sacrifice, and tragic death. The characters of Tosca, her beloved Cavaradain (originally Cavaradossi), and the villainous Scarpia stayed unchanged. Jacob Cohen, a Jewish London bus driver before the war, replaced the character of Cesare Angelotti. Spoletta/Sciarrone was given a name of Alexandre Villaplane, a French football player who was later executed for his collaborations with the Nazis.

The small cast had a far from easy task. Contending with the extremely dry acoustics, a small set consisting mainly a table and a painting and the close proximity of the audience, they needed to deliver one of the most popular operas of all times. If the reaction of the audience can determine the level of success, the cast should feel extremely proud. I was stunned to see how extremely involved every single viewer was. There was a lot less clapping and cheering than one experiences in big opera houses. This was no vanity fair of big arias and high notes, the singers and producers had made a clear attempt to transform the opera into a real theatrical experience. Even the small instrumental ensemble helped establish the organic character of the show, although the quality of the arrangement and the subtlety of the performance had a lot of room to improve.

Momentarily, it was amusing how this great old classic now somewhat resembled a musical; the piano accompaniment, the English dialogue, and the not entirely consistent quality of singing, acting, and playing. The great Becca Marriott as Tosca was the star of the evening. Roger Paterson as Cavaradain sounded a bit unrefined until the famous aria E lucevan le stelle, when he reached a remarkable warmth in his voice. Michael Georgious’ voice and acting abilities did not suit the evil and imperious character of Scarpia, which was a shame as Puccini is believed to have said that to be performed successfully, this character needs both a very decent singer and a fantastic actor.

This new version of Puccini’s classic made it so easy for us to relate to the characters. How appropriate to sit in a small bunker-like theatre, watching a spectacle about war, love, and torture. Although there were some important elements that could definitely be refined, I would be keen to see more of such ambitious productions from this team. I hope their efforts will attract more great singers and instrumentalists who don’t usually imagine small theatres as their dream-destination. The King’s Head Theatre takes pride in its avant-garde shows and fair treatment of artists. They should now take pride in bringing a great operatic work back into the everyday thoughts of all their audience.


Reviewed by Aleksandra Myslek





is at The King’s Head Theatre until 28th October



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