Monday, 3 May 2010

La Boheme, the Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn

Most are familiar with the idea from the press - La Boheme staged both in the tiny theatre above a Kilburn pub and downstairs in the bar itself, doubling as Café Momus, for Act 2. This involving situationalism combined with a modern-vernacular English translation of the text (by director Robin Norton-Hale) has been a hit, running for the best part of six months now. Last night's was the 100th performance. The show will transfer to the West End in the summer until September.



Last night I saw Gareth Morris as Rodolfo, Elly Moran as Mimi... but precious little information about the rest of the cast (more about that later). Part of the wonder of this production is that they're doing this opera under these circumstances at all (the only orchestra is a keyboard, played last night - as notices did announce - by David Gostick). Morris and Moran overcame the limitations of singing big roles in a cramped non-acoustic by simply singing well. Morris - a big, physical man whose MacBook looks like a Nintendo DS in his hands (Rodolfo's a writer don't forget) - threw out a muscular sound, ardent and consistent throughout the evening. Mimi is a nymph where Rodolfo is a hero and Moran's beautifully produced voice seduced where Morris' thrilled. These aren't easy roles for any singer but both had all the resources to not only sing the notes but make something of the music too.

It's at this point I simply run out of names, I'm sorry to say. I tend not to buy a programme out of habit, assuming I can read a cast list either at the venue or, later, online. Amazingly there is nothing about this cast to be found, only a secondhand list of the original double cast performers cached in an Evening Standard page from December last year. The production, we are told, has been the longest ever running continuous production of La Boheme ever but we have no way of referring back to the most valuable commodity in this success, the performers. There's not even an Opera Up Close website.

Still, this is nothing a phone call can't rectify. Annabel Mountford (she's the one on the poster, right) sang Musetta with the requisite sexual allure, i.e. as coarse as she is tempting. Indeed Nick Dyer as Marcello calls her a 'chav' during their Act 3 row. Marcin Kopeć and Alistair Sutherland were the Schaunard and Colline respectively, and all three were solid in their supporting roles.

The conceit works because it's a young person's drama, fast, extreme and full of fun. Whilst there are local gags to laugh about (the delights of Kilburn High Road's various fast food outlets, for example) Robin Norton-Hale sensibly doesn't get too carried away, so the language isn't shackled to fads or potential anachronisms come the bittersweet, timeless third Act (although there is a joke about Gordon Brown in the first which may have expired by this time next week). Of course the best bit is probably the Act 2 circus in the pub proper where a table of willing extras masquerading as punters fill in the chorus parts - and there's even a counterfeit DVD hawker working the tables just as there are street vendors in the original... and, of course, the ever present danger of all this happening right next to the front door, which the cast also use for their entrances and exits. I can't see this verisimilitude being replicated come the West End transfer, so I should try and see it while you can.

2 comments:

  1. Marcin Kopec due to illness didn't perform in this show. Schaunard was played by Brett Brown. Regards.

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  2. Thanks for this information kopeciek. As I say in the blog post, all the information I have about the performers was provided by Cock Tavern Theatre staff over the phone the following day. Perhaps I should add that I was also told Tommy Coleman sang Benoît in Act 1 and David Freedman sang Alcindoro in Act 2.

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