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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: THE MAGIC FLUTE @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 The Magic Flute

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Friday 26th May 2023

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

THE MAGIC FLUTE .... BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT!


Last night I returned to the Theatre Royal Plymouth for my second ever opera! As with my previous experience The Magic Flute was presented by Welsh National Opera, but unlike my previous experience this was a more traditional and well known opera.


The Magic Flute may be a traditional opera, but this production was anything but traditional! What Matthew Bourne is to ballet, Welsh National Opera is to The Magic Flute!

Set to the glorious music from Mozart, the piece has been deconstructed and rebuilt in such a way that makes it accessible to a whole new audience.

With a set that screams 1980's pop culture with its straight lines and neon lights alongside costumes reminiscent of the original Doctor Who series, the audience were transported between the realms of nighttime and daytime in such a way that it resonated with modern day struggles.

It wasn’t just the look that was different about this production, the sound was also a surprise. Mainly because the piece was performed in English rather than German! I don’t like to read too much about any production I am reviewing so this was a real shock to me. I heard murmurings in the audience when the singing began, so I don’t think I was alone in being blindsided by this.


I actually really enjoyed this take on the traditional opera. I liked how they had modernised the story and although it followed a similar path, it wasn’t a direct translation. I’m sure things such as “Keep it in you pants” and “Shut your trap” weren’t in the original lyrics! However I felt that these changes worked extremely well and as I am still being introduced to the world of opera, I feel like I’m being eased into the genre!


Another difference on display was the fact that there was dialogue. An opera such as this is usually sung all the way through but this interpretation had acting scenes throughout its entirety. All these changes made what could potentially be a challenging story to follow really easy and engaging.

The Prince and Princess were brought to life by Thando Mjandana as Tamino and April Koyejo-Audiger as Pamina. They both gave outstanding performances and I was particularly enamoured with Koyejo-Audiger who gave sublime vocals throughout.

It’s fantastic to see such diversity on the stage and to have the two central characters in one of the biggest operas portrayed by people of colour was beautiful. For youngsters it’s especially important for them to see themselves represented in every aspect of the arts and this production brings together people from different ethnicities and cultures.


Tamino goes on a quest to find Pamina alongside his comedy sidekick Papageno who was played by Neal Davies. Davies has great comedy timing and there were elements of the classic character Baldrick from Blackadder! When he meets his parallel from the other realm Papagena (Claire Hampton), their story is beautiful and funny to witness. I especially loved their duet when they rediscovered each other.

The entire company gave strong performances with not a weak link among them. Although it is impossible to mention them all I want to give a special mention to Nazan Fikret, Kezia Bienek and Claire Barnett-Jones who were joyous as the Three Ladies and Thomas Kinch and Laurence Cole who gave entertaining performances as the Armed Guards.

Alun Rhys-Jones also gave a strong performance as Monostatos, but the standout performance for me came from Samantha Hay as the Queen of the Night. She had an exceptional voice and performed the famous aria from the piece with seemingly effortless ease which received a huge reaction from the audience who were in awe of her talent.

Something else about this production that was brilliant was the puppetry element. Again this was not something I was expecting but it was visually stunning and Tom Stacy and Kim Scopes did an excellent job throughout.

The production worked well on so many levels and as someone who enjoys a technically great performance I very much enjoyed the set by Loren Elstein and lighting by Jake Wiltshire as well as the direction by Daisy Evans.


As much as I did enjoy the performance I did feel that it was about 15 minutes too long. Act 2 seemed to drag a bit as it was quite long and there was a slight moment in the middle where it felt a bit flat for me, although this didn’t last long. Opera by its very nature is quite repetitive and I feel that there were opportunities to shave a bit of time from the show by cutting lyrics in some places.

That being said, I would definitely see this production again and I’m looking forward to seeing more productions from Welsh National Opera in the future.

There is only one more performance at Theatre Royal Plymouth of The Magic Flute, but the company is returning later in the year. Welsh National Opera will be back at the theatre in the Autumn with three different productions. Ainadamar which merges flamenco music with opera and is sung in Spanish, La traviata goes back to a more traditional opera and will be sung in Italian and Play Opera LIVE is a family experience that is out of this world and is suitable for all ages so will be a great introduction to opera for youngsters. Head to www.theatreroyal.com for lots more information on these shows and to book tickets.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


My ticket for this performance was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to review the production. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in my star rating or the content of my review.

COMPANY:

Claire Barnett-Jones; Kezia Bienek; Laurence Cole; Paul Daniel; Carys Davies; Neal Davies; Madeline Eaton; Nazan Fikret; Kirsten Forbes; Matthew Forbes; Trystan Llÿr Griffiths; Claire Hampton; Samantha Hay; Llinos Haf Jones; Thomas Kinch; April Koyejo-Audiger; Quirjin de Lang; Jonathan Lemalu; Raven McMillon; Thando Mjandana; Katherine Reid; Alun Rhys-Jenkins; Kim Scopes; Chuma Sijeqa; Julia Sitkovetsky; Tom Stacy; Jenny Stafford; Sophie Williams

RUNNING TIME (approx):

3 hours, including interval


NOTES

Sung in English, with surtitles in English

The mission of Theatre Royal Plymouth is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country.

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