Posts Tagged ‘Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’

Mini-review – Ormindo – Royal Opera at Shakespeare’s Globe – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

April 11, 2014

Less than a month after my unfortunate visit to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to see The Knight of the Burning Pestle, I was back in the side balcony for a stab at what I thought might be a more successful evening – a production of 17th century opera L’Ormindo (by Cavalli). Afterall, what I’d enjoyed the most about the last production had been the music (authentic Jacobean! this with singing by the Royal Opera!) and the playhouse itself (smells like beeswax!), so why not focus on the positives and see if a better evening resulted?

I’m pleased to say that even with a candy-floss plot, Ormindo was a charming evening, enhanced greatly by the decision to have the singers performing in English. (When I realized I might be heading for an evening of supertitles in a theater where half of the seats can’t see various areas of the stage, I got a bit worried.) I got to stretch my brain to try to follow along with the lyrics as sung – a big of a new experience for me – and I did well without a single crib note.

The performance was done tongue-in-cheek from the start, with “MUSIC” (you could tell because it was spray-painted on her robe) descending from overhead and giving us all a lecture on what a wonderful temple we were about to worship her in; it was clear that we didn’t need to get TOO serious about our high art. Our “hero,” Ormindo (Samuel Boden), competes with Amidas (Ed Lyon) for the love of Erisbe (Susanna Hurrell); the boys have a pectoral contest and even go for “my tattoo is bigger than yours” one upsmanship. Side characters complain about the local morals and are groped from the trap door; Erisbe appears on stage wearing a bed.

But the tomfoolery in no way indicated shortcuts artistically; the singing and musicianship were wonderful. I loved the (counter?)tenor duets of Boden and Lyon, and the harpsichord-led orchestra (in period costume) well-satisfied my Early Music ear.

And yet, still, after two hours, I took advantage of the second interval and made a break for it. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable, and the Farinelli-like presence of Princess Sicle’s nurse Eryka (Harry Nicoll) was a wonder to behold and to hear sing; but in some ways it had gotten a bit samey-samey. My bum had gone numb on the thinly padded benches, and since I’d just blown my sleep budget on a three hour long show the night before at the National, it seemed that going home would be the best thing. Still: I felt I’d got £40 out of what I did see; and when I got back to work I booked for two more shows there. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has taken a place in my short list of the most beautiful buildings in the world, next to the Pantheon, the Asamkirch in Munich, and the lunchrooms at the V&A; I plan to go regularly – but perhaps less on schoolnights.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014. The run ends on April 12th.)

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Review – The Knight of the Burning Pestle – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe

March 13, 2014

The opening of a new theater is always a cause for rejoicing, so I was eager to break in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. A Jacobean recreation complete with candles to light it? And a roof? Suddenly I could envision myself making the trip to the Globe much more frequently, only not for the opening show Duchess of Malfi (which was sold out). Instead, I got tickets for the much less competitive Knight of the Burning Pestle, and went knowing very little about it.

There were lots of positives at the beginning: 100% autentico musicians in the galley (an arch lute! a viola da gamba! And was that a shawm?), really precisely historically accurate costumes on the actors, the smell of beeswax everywhere. My side balcony seats weren’t too uncomfortable and had an only slightly obstructed view. But then the show started and it became clear that the “comic” interrupting from the two characters pretending to be Jacobean audience members was going to continue throughout the show.

And I despaired. Oh how I despaired. As the stage show continued, a tissue thin plot emerged – something about thwarted lovers and a confused knight running around Walthamstow Forest looking for maidens to rescue (while wearing a panto-style horse costume), all while being heckled or otherwise disturbed from the stalls. The whole thing descended into farce, then (during a fight scene) fell even lower into what I can only describe as the world of Sicilian puppet theater (clash clash clang clang DRAGONS!).

We had been told there would be microintervals (for leg stretches, I assume) then a proper interval, but also that it was going to be a three hour long show. Now, I sat happily through Jerusalem and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, but in both cases I was eager to rush back in and see what happened next. In this case, I had the opposite feeling, that of a huge relief as I gave up on the whole thing and left at the full interval. I’m sure this theater is going to be a real asset to London, but whoever picked this show needs a slap in the face with a fish, preferably one that had spoiled a bit, while being heckled by irritated audience members. I’ve got my salmon, baby, why don’t you stand a little closer?

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, March 6th, 2014. It continues through March 30th.)