La Traviata, King’s Head London, 3***: William Russell


Verdi’s La Traviata

A new version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson.


The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 !QN to 27 October 2018.

Tues-Sat 7pm. Mat Sat 3.30pm.

Runs 2 hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0207 226 8561.

Review: William Russell 3 October.

The things that apparently happen in Bristol

Opera libretti can be pretty daft at times, but Verdi’s La Traviata is not one of them – the story of the lady of the camellias works very well indeed. The King’s Head had a hit last year with a version of La Boheme reimagined but what on earth Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson were up to when the dreamt up the book for this attempt to devise a La Traviata for our times is anybody’s guess. It is the biggest load of claptrap it has been my misfortune to sit through in years.

That is not to say that the score devised by Panaretos Kyriatzidis is at fault. He was the pianist and delivered the goods with great aplomb. Nor were the four singers I saw and heard – there are two casts who alternate – to blame. Admittedly opera voices in the confines of the King’s Head auditorium can be deafening, but they all sang very well indeed, acted as best they could in the circumstances given roles that make no sense, and as Violetta, a pole dancer who is no better than she should be, despite a pole dancing costume hideous beyond belief, Becca Marriott was most impressive.

But the plot the cast had to navigate is dire. Into a Bristol pole dancing club run by a nasty madam in a trouser suit called Flora comes the local MP with his wet son Elijah, a gifted musician, but a virgin still in spite of looking nearly as old as Daddy, who thinks this has to be dealt with just in case the lad is gay.

The star pole dancer Violetta, the aforesaid Ms Marriott, gets the job of seeing to him and the pair fall in love, absconding to a flat of their own where they set up a love nest. But Daddy gets upset at his son’s failure to carry on with his music lessons and Flora, who, it transpires is their landlady, gets very annoyed as she has lost he star attraction and business is poor.

Cue for disaster – Daddy weighs in to tell Viol; Etta what is what and so does Flora, whereupon Violetta abandons poor Elijah and goes back the club, Daddy takes Elijah away and the lad takes to drink. Then Flora fires Violetta, who has lost interest in pole dancing and entertaining the customers, so she goes on the game – we know this because she wears a raincoat over her pole dancing costume for the rest of the show. She also swigs from a vodka bottle and downs an amazing amount of pills. Then, after off stage the voice of Elijah joins her in a duet, she dies from the overdose foaming at the mouth. One knows how she felt – La Travestiata is more like it.

The cast I saw

Violetta: Becca Marriott.

Elijah: Oliver Brignall.

Flora: Gemma Morsley.

Sinclair: Michael Georgiou/

The second cast

Violetta: Emma Walsh.

Elijah: Alex Haigh.

Flora: Grainne Gillis.

Sinclair: Victor Sgarni.

Director: Helena Jackson.

Musical Director: Panaretos Kyriatzidis.

Designer: Amanda Mascarenhas.

Lighting Designer: Nic Farman.

Pole Choreographer: Iris Sparkles.

Production photography: Bill Knight.


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