The Elixir of Love by Donizetti. Libretto Chris Harris & David Eaton. King’s Head Theatre, islington N1 to 26 October. 4****. William Russell

The Elixir of Love
By Donizetti
In a new English version by Chris Harris & David Eaton.
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 26 October 2019.
Mon – Sat 7pm. Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 90 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 226 8561
Review: William Russell 9 October.

Sparkling, silly and rather foul mouthed at times this version of Donizetti’s opera buffa buffa, L’Elisir d’amore, is set in the 1980s at the time of the Falklands war in a cafe on Barry Island, Wales, later to achieve fame as the home of Gavin an Stacey. It is a world of red checked plastic table cloths and waitresses in red sweat shirts who seem to do very little waiting. Adina owns the cafe helped by Gina. Customer Nicky loves Gina but is too shy to do anything about it. Pompous prat sailer Brandon sweeps her off her feet, pointing out he is about to go off to war in the Falklands. Enter snake oil salesman Dulcamara who resolves things with his magic elixir. It is all light and silly and great fun, although Brandon does swear rather a lot and the repeated use of the word shit gets a little tedious. He may have a limited brain but one wishes he had a slightly larger vocabulary of obscenities. No matter, the libretto devised by Harris and Eaton is great fun and the cast give it their all. Akys Roberts is a delightful Adina, David Powton gets better as the evening wears on as the shy and gullible Nicky, and Themba Mvula has a wonderful time as the gorgeous, self loving and downright not to be trusted Brandon. But if the evening belongs to anyone, and under David Eaton at the piano delivering the score with zest, it is a close run thing it belongs to Matthew Kellet as Dulcmara. Bouncing around on the springs of his heels, clad in atrocious seaside wear, he flogs his potions to Nicky with delight, sings his arias with assured comic timing and manages to inject fresh zest into a scene already going along very nicely indeed. This set in Wales production is a welcome addition to the operas already given face lifts a this theatre. Take the medicine. You will enjoy it. The taste may be questionable but the after effects are delicious.
Alys Roberts: Adina.
David Powton: Nicky.
Dulcamara: Matthew Kellett.
Brandon: Themba Mvula.
Gina: Caroline Taylor.
Covers Adina – Caroline Taylor; Brandon – Theo Perry; Gina – Shana Moron-Caravel.

Director: Hannah Noone.
Musical Director: David Eaton.
Designer: Amanda Mascarenhas.
Lighting Designer: Nic Farman.
Production photography: Bill Knight.

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