Mini-review – Duchess of Malfi – Punchdrunk with English National Opera

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If you’re among the many who failed to get tickets for this sell-out, I say to you, cry no more. From the minute the horror of the location set in – a true horror, that is, as the show is done in a modern office park – I realized that this was Punchdrunk tripping over its laurels. There was no more magic in those dropped ceilings than in the diaper the fox left in my back yard last Sunday. While digging for either atmosphere or a performance (the hunt is always part of the Punchdrunk “experience,” or frustration in my case), I came upon room after room that had eminently failed to create the sense of mystery in every other show of theirs I’d seen: the feeling that I was finding clues that would tell me more about the story. Instead, the designer seemed to run out of ideas before he (or shee) ran out of rooms, leaving most of them just jammed full of junk. (The saving grace is the first floor bar; if you are somehow still going to see this show, perhaps just to feel like you got your 35 quid worth, a solid hour in the bar will go a long way to take the sting out of your evening.) If nothing else, it was air conditioned, but that is cold comfort indeed.*

And then there is the performance: bad modern dance and painful modern opera. God, I keep going to opera, again and again, and so many times it just fails, fails, fails, and here I got to watch it failing (though sung well) from mere inches away. I think I only saw four scenes at the most, and each of them was unpleasant, atonal crap. The dance is also weak. I think using it with opera is a good idea, but why couldn’t it have been good modern dance?

In the end the best moment of the night was watching a set of bass players throwing every bit of themselves into creating music while people turgidly crashed around on a large stage behind me. It shouldn’t have been the highlight of my evening, but it was the one moment when I was utterly caught up in what was happening in front of me. Otherwise, this was a painfully wasted evening. My consolation? I got to have a wonderful discussion about “Magic Flute: The Super-Mario Production” afterwards with my likewise disappointed companion. I’ll remember it much longer than this show.

*I couldn’t help myself. Sorry.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, July 19th, 2010. I was really let down. I don’t even want to look up links.)

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One Response to “Mini-review – Duchess of Malfi – Punchdrunk with English National Opera”

  1. Guest Review – The Duchess of Malfi – Punchdrunk and E.N.O. on location « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] (There is now also a mini-review of this show done by this blog’s usual author available here if you would like to read […]

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