Simon Stephens: Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

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Carmen Disruption- why did I book it:

I love the Almeida Theatre and I wanted to give Simon Stephens another chance (didn’t like Birdland, but rather liked Port and love his Adaption of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

The Cast:

The Singer: Sharon Small, Carmen: Jack Farthing,, Don José: Noma Dumezweni, Escamillo: John Light, Micaëla: Katie West, Chorus: Viktoria Vizin

What’s it about:

The 4 main characters of Bizet’s  Carmen (Carmen, Don Jose, Escamillo, Micaela), a Singer and the singing Singer (Chorus) as characters of modern isolated life, somehow connected.

**Spoiler: Sharon Small told me, her character has a feverdream in her hotelsuite, the characters exist only in her imagination – probably. I had a similar idea, as some of the ramblings of the characters reminded me of Tobias Menzies’ character rambling in The Fever which I saw in February.

What I like about it:

Gives you food for thought, you have to follow carfully the monologues to put the characters and relationships together. It’s rather challenging. It helps –  and is partly a joy  – to stick the pieces together when you know the opera Carmen by Bizet. Some characters of the opera found great representations in the characters of the play.

Some poetic moments are very powerful and the actors are 1st class, especially Carmen, James Farthing – I spottet Rupert Goold congratulate him to his performance after in front of the bar. And the opera singer is just wonderful.

The music: two cellists and Viktoria Vizin performing short extracts of the opera , partly in a modern interpretation.

My highlights:

  • The entrance through the backstage area.
  • The set design – especially the constantly breathing bull that’s lying in the center of the stage.
  • The singing by VV, I wish there has been more of it

What I don’t like about it:

It’s all about monologues! Why? I don’t want to be told all the stories, I want to watch them happen. Dialogues make a play much more lively and dramatic. At some moments I thought, wow Stephens you finally got it and then it was messed up again and I was slightly bored, disappointing! And it is much too long, but I’ve seen the first preview, so there will surely be cuts.

What I didn’t really get:

The characterization of Don Jose – it’s no problem for me it’s a female character in the play, but I didn’t find the character of the opera in him. Most of the time I even didn’t understand who she is talking of/about.

The Opera and the Play:

The characters are inspired by the characters of the opera, but they are not connected as in the opera and their motivations and drive in the play are much different. They are connected by the new characters the Singer and the Chorus. And the music plays its part, modified and only in little pieces like in a collage.  The opera by Bizet is inspiration and helps to hold the play together. Unfortunately it’s not made use of consequently.

The audience:

The makers, e.g. the playwright himself, Simon Stephens, a lot of guests of the makers and the cast, e.g. the performer of the German “Singer” (Sharon Small’s and the Opera singers parts were one in that version), the British actor Matthew Horne and a German Soap Actor. And a lot of the pretentious middle aged Almeida audience, the word “cunt” was gasped and tutted at a lot.

Stage-door experience:

I had the chance to get all the actors’ and Simon Stephens autographs and had a little chat with Jack Farthing, Sharon Small and Simon Stephens.

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Would I like to see it again?

It would be interesting to see the final version, but probably not, it’s rather challenging, not much comfort zone, didn’t like it enough to give it a second go.

About KirstenSE

German art afficionada, anglophile. I love theatre, opera, films, music and TV.
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