Puzzle Piece Opera’s Figaro in 50 minutes, is the latest in a series of 50 minute operas they have performed and my second Figaro in a week, but it was worth the journey, and what a journey! Figaro transported to the office at top speed.
How do you get through the Marriage of Figaro in fifty minutes? Lose the choruses, take out the recitative, truncate some of the arias and dispense with some minor characters: Barbarina does not feature nor does the Gardener. Although the singing is in Italian, the action is held together by a narrative in rhyming couplets in English written by Lucy Drever who also directs and page turns for a nimble fingered Gaspar Hunt on piano; and performed by Figaro himself, (Simon Dyer) doing cheeky chappie by turns plotting and sulking; and taking the narration a tad too fast, although his singing was excellent. In fact everyone was in good voice, it would be unfair to single anyone out (although I will).
The Regent Hall is an obscure performing space, right on Oxford Street but almost invisible. It is a massive echoing space, and the singers had a lot of stage room to fill too: much effective use is made of a coat stand centre stage, hiding in turn: Cherubino, Figaro, the Boss and Mrs Boss; this last played by Emily Garland typically mopey, and rather static, but her voice is amazing: vibrant, clear and delectable, her duets with Susanna (Emma-Claire Crook) were particularly fine.
The Boss (Casey-Joe Rumens) was played with conviction as feeling absolutely entitled to grope Susanna, stitch Figaro up and sack Cherubino on a whim, and thoroughly undeserving of his wife’s forgiveness.
Basilio (Matthew Straw) was a very effective toadying second in command, conniving at the Boss’ attempts to seduce Susannah whilst secretly yearning after the boss himself. Susanna herself flirts and bats her eyelashes and fakes a faint to protect Cherubino from discovery.
I particularly enjoyed Clara Lisle playing Marcellina as a bit of a would-be vamp (wearing enormous gold platform shoes reminiscent of Vivienne Westwood). She thoroughly enjoyed twisting Figaro’s tail and was anxiously checking her makeup (or possibly her crows’ feet), in between cat fights with Susanna, and had to be physically restrained by Basilio and Steven East’s Bartolo, a loyal supporter of Marcellina who seems a bit surprised to find himself named as the father of her child.
Cherubino’s escapade with the window is managed wittily, and cheeky use is made of coffee jugs. Georgina Mottram playing him staggeringly young I felt, possibly on work experience!
All is resolved as the office workers bury their differences, grab coats and scarves, and head for the pub.
Puzzle Piece are performing 50 minute Figaro again, 28th October 1pm at Charlton House, and next month at Blackheath Halls, go and be entertained.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011