Thursday, 13 February 2020

REVIEW: Opera Undone: Tosca & La Boheme at Trafalgar Studios 2


Opera Undone: Tosca & La Boheme is The King’s Head Theatre’s first West End transfer and quite something it is. Puccini’s operas are sung in English and condensed into two 60-minute performances, reimagining the original stories to modernised operas.

Tosca, in this version set in 1940’s New York, is a tale of love, jealousy and torture. Tosca (played by Fiona Finsbury) gets caught up in a romance with Cavaradossi (Roger Paterson), a painter, who has some big secrets. He seeks to help his criminal friend runaway, until creepy Mafia boss Scarpia (Hugo Herman Wilson) captures him and preys on Tosca as revenge. The opera starts strong, with many amusing moments that draw the audience into the show. As the plot becomes more of a tragedy and quite horrifying at times, the audience connection seemed to fade; noticeable in such an intimate staging. The vocals are challenging but were very well executed by all of the cast, however, it seemed that the pace of arguments is stilted when sung and the tension dissipates. It was enjoyable but certainly lacked something, it noticeably seemed that a lot of plot and character depth had to be cut to fit the story into the hour.

La bohème, on the other hand, took a much more modern stance on the opera and is set in Peckham. After meeting through Grindr, Rod (Roberto Barbaro) and Mimi/Luca (Philip Lee) connect and develop a complicated relationship that battles through addiction and trust.

Meanwhile, Marcus (Michael Georgiou) and Melissa (Honey Rouhani) work through the emotional struggles of an off again- off again relationship and the complexities of polyamory. The entire performance has been rejigged and is utterly fantastic. What it lacks in some unconvincing acting, it makes up for in hilarious lines, powerful voices and relatable digs at one another. They have revamped La boheme into a quirky tale that is quite unlike anything I have seen before.

Opera Undone successfully introduces a new generation to classic operas and certainly makes it more accessible. Every performer is clearly very talented and passionate about the art. At times I did wonder if the charm and glamour is lost by simplifying these traditional performances and containing them in a black box space. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls C20 | Price of Ticket: £25
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