Mini-review – Carmen Disruption – Almeida Theater

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It’s several weeks since I saw this show but there’s still two performances left of Carmen Disruption at the Almeida, so I’m going to add my two cents (but not much more).

Carmen – the opera – is an intense emotional journey, one that, for me, ends in triumph as Carmen chooses following the dictates of her heart over a lifetime of misery with a man whom she rightfully despises (Don José). Carmen is a woman of passion – and, sadly, so is Don José, but without strength to make him someone worth respect. He wavers and wibbles, he is dishonest to his former love Micaëla, he is weak and despicable. Of course Carmen wants the toreador Escamillo. Of course weak Don José kills the person who can see him for what he is. It is all inevitable.

This feeling of inevitable doom for all involved permeates Carmen Disruption, no doubt in part because of the heavy presence of the barely breathing animated bull that dominates the stage. It’s added to by the stripped-back set and the constant insertion of some rather good music (including the delicious singing of Viktoria Vizin) – but these are the highlights of the evening rather than a side dish to the main. Two of the five characters are given interesting stories to tell – The Singer’s loss of her identity, gigolo Carmen’s arrogance and rape – but there isn’t enough in the five of them to actually create a story arc, a personal evolution, an anything. I could almost believe in their realities, but I didn’t care. It was like a collection of lesser short stories by an author early in her career – poorly formed and pointless. It relied on the gravitas of the original to give it motive energy and then totally squandered it.

I had been encouraged to see this show by an exuberant review but I lived to regret buying my ticket. I shouldn’t have spent more time thinking about where I had heard the song Hall of Mirrors than I did anything else in this play, including why the central death might have mattered at all. I escaped angrily into the night. Such a waste of time and energy. Such a waste.

(This review is for a performance that took place April 27th. It closes May 23rd.)

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