18 November 2014

Glare at the Linbury Studio Theatre was as strange as I expected, and hoped

I am starting to love the programme of new opera at the Linbury Studio Theatre. That is mostly because it is edgy but it also helps that the theatre is excellent (comfortable seating with good views and acoustics) and that it is reasonably priced.

This is in stark contrast to the Royal Opera House upstairs which I think of as safe, old and prohibitively expensive. Yes, Glyndebourne is expensive too but going there is an event not just a concert.

That means that I am tempted to take a punt on something that I do not know, as was the case with Glare. I chose a seat in Row M again (M16) which set me back a miserly £25.

Getting to the theatre on time proved to be something of a challenge and ended with me walking out of Tuttons, the brasserie across the road, without paying my bill. This was because having failed to deliver all of the food in time then they failed to deliver the bill at all despite several desperate attempts to get one from various members of staff. Finally, having stood by the door in my coat for a few minutes I simply walked out.

The next curious incident was inside the theatre where an odd looking contraption was occupying a seat near me. Questioning revealed that it was a collection of sensors (volume, heat, humidity, etc.) used to assess the audience's environment.

Following all that the opera was almost normal.

Well, as normal as any opera that begins with a man dumping a body into a dumpster could be.

The story revolved around a young man and his passionate relationships with women, he had recently left one for another.

A twist comes when a friend suggests that he could try an android and we are asked to think whether his previous girlfriend was one and that was a machine that we saw being dumped. Later his friend suggested that androids were still some years away making us think again about what we had witnessed. We also met the old girl friend so who or what was that in the dumpster? It was all nicely ambiguous.

Despite the inherent uncertainty in the plot there was a coherence that propelled it forward through a series of strong scenes, many of which were set in his bedroom (front-left of the stage) and were quite raunchy. These scenes let us explore the in-the-now aspects of relationships while the twisting story showed how quickly and confusingly these nows can change, and how little influence we usually have over them.

The music was surprisingly traditional with a layer of unusual sounds on top, rather like the way Hawkwind use electronics to turn Rock into Space Rock. The songs were mostly conversations so there were a lot of duets. I liked all of the voices too. One one listening I am struggling to describe the music, and lack the formal vocabulary to do so, but what I can say is it was melodic and was structured as a series of reasonably long pieces; that is what I meant by traditional.

Glare was a very strong opera that entertained gloriously. More like that please.

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