Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Camden Fringe 2023


Camden Fringe 2023 As a frequenter of fringe theatre, I have always taken particular delight in small-scale productions that punch above their weight. They might be a little rough around the edges but make up for it with sheer heart and hard work. Opera Kipling has taken to the Upstairs at The Gatehouse stage as part of this year’s Camden Fringe with exactly that spirit. The results are joyful.  La Cenerentola, to give it its original title, premiered in 1817. Rossini loosely adapted the familiar Cinderella fairy tale and all the key ingredients are present; a prince, ugly sisters,…

Rating



Good

Opera on the fringe? Yes please! Opera Kipling’s refreshing staging of Rossini’s Cinderella is an unpretentious treat.

As a frequenter of fringe theatre, I have always taken particular delight in small-scale productions that punch above their weight. They might be a little rough around the edges but make up for it with sheer heart and hard work. Opera Kipling has taken to the Upstairs at The Gatehouse stage as part of this year’s Camden Fringe with exactly that spirit. The results are joyful. 

La Cenerentola, to give it its original title, premiered in 1817. Rossini loosely adapted the familiar Cinderella fairy tale and all the key ingredients are present; a prince, ugly sisters, mistaken identity and a happy ending. Here, the story is given a highly successful 1980s makeover. There are roller skates, neon lycra, pastel tailoring and a brick-like mobile phone. Whipping out the latter gets a laugh all of its own. The performance is sung in Italian, but English subtitles are projected throughout. They don’t just tell the story. Far from it, they add layers of humour themselves. Lyrics, cultural references and 80s vocabulary are peppered throughout with genuine wit. 19th-century librettist Jacopo Ferretti’s no doubt fine Italian poetry is at times translated as “Bloody hell” and “Don’t take the mickey” as well as “Love will tear us apart”,  “I want to dance with somebody” and even “Take on me”   

I shan’t review the music per se. Partly because, as a mere theatre critic, I’m not even close to being qualified to, but also because there’s surely a concert version somewhere or a recording out there if that’s your bag. Here, we get musical director, Giannis Giannopoulos solo at the keyboard and everyone cracks on. Mezzo-soprano Karima El Demerdasch, in the lead role, cracks on particularly impressively.   

The limelight, if not the entire show, is however stolen by Grace Lovelace and Laura Curry as ugly sisters, Tisbe and Clorinda. Funny operatic performances seem almost miraculous to me. Comic timing surely plays havoc with your breathing, no? They are ably assisted in their scene-stealing by Alexander Jones as evil stepfather Don Magnifico. Their three-way antics prove that bad guys always have more fun and laughs come aplenty.

It is all very broad and accessible. If you wanted to be unkind, you might describe it as slightly crude. Tasked with staging a storm, the cast reaches for some blue sheeting to wave. Wiktoria Wizner as the fairy godmother reveals party-shop wings and pops her wand down her cleavage for safe-keeping. I know what you are thinking. Panto? Oh no, it isn’t that, but the sprightly direction from Guido Martin-Brandis does perhaps raid Panto’s dressing-up box.

The programme tells us the cast use Sign Supported English for the d/Deaf community. Apart from spotting some clear gestures, this hardly registered with your hearing reviewer, but improving accessibility for an audience you wouldn’t naturally consider for opera is to be applauded. Opera Kipling is clearly a plucky company full of ideas. The fact they are brave enough to stage a full opera on a shoestring makes them an exceedingly welcome addition to the fringe scene and I look forward to seeing what they do next. 


Composed by: Gioachino Rossini
Directed by: Guido Martin-Brandis
Musical Direction by: Giannis Giannopoulos
Produced by: Opera Kipling

Cinderella is playing until Sunday 6 August at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. Further information and tickets available here.


By Sandra Winters

Writer | Author | Wordsmith Passionate about crafting stories that captivate and inspire. Published author of [Book Title]. Dedicated to exploring the depths of human emotions and experiences through the power of words. Join me on this literary journey as we delve into the realms of imagination and uncover the beauty of storytelling.