by Daisy Evans, Stephen Higgins & Max Pappenheim.
A reimagining of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
4 Stars ****
The Vaults, Launcelot Street, London SE1 7AD to 10 June 2017.
Tues-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9603.
Review: William Russell 2 June.
The gritty tale of the Urban Fox
This intriguing production conceived by Silent Opera may have been inspired by Janacek’s opera – it has the blessing of the English National Opera who first introduced the work to British audiences – but is quite a different kettle of fish. Silent Opera performs through headphones on which you hear a pre-recorded score while in front of you the singers are actually singing although they too come through the headphones. It is a concept which, in this age when people love to wear headphones, involves sitting on decaying sofas or beanbags surrounded by folk with little green lights where their ears should be which, given that what tube and train travellers do is not really all that innovative. Lousy seating is par for the course on the fringe and de rigueur at The Vaults.
The reimagining sets the tale on the streets of London. The Vixen is a homeless girl fleeing a sexual predator who has offered her a home. She meets a nice, handsome dog fox, they have a child, is pursued by the predator and gets killed. It works effectively enough as a tale for our times and the small cast sing well while Rosie Lomas makes a most impressive Vixen, feral, with long red hair, agonised and wild.
On its own terms this is a show worth seeing, but as an introduction to Janacek’s opera, or indeed to opera per se, possibly not. The Cunning Little Vixen is a magical affair about life in the wild where wild things die, and is staged in all sorts of ways, sometimes aimed at children, sometimes at adults.
This, however, is about the horror of life on the streets and as you enter to take the first of those horrible seats you walk through a corridor lined with pictures of missing young people and voices echo in your ears of parents wondering where they are.
It is effective, the score, much played about with, is more or less there in full orchestral sound – Janacek did write some wonderful melodies – and the production its case about the urban reality people prefer to ignore effectively. The averting of eyes, the usual reaction to the homeless, is impossible as we share the Vixen’s journey to death. Whether the playing of opera through earphones adds anything, however, is anybody’s guess.
The creators of Silent Opera obviously think it does.
Fox/Schoolmaster/Pepik/Tenor Sax: Robin Bailey.
Badger/Harasta/Parson/Oboe: Tim Dickinson.
Forester: Ian Ludlow.
Vixen: Rosie Lomas.
Ensemble/Dog/Terynka/Flute: Rosanna Ter-Berg.
Ensemble/Frantik/Violin: Phillip Granell.
Director: Daisy Evans.
Music Director: Stephen Higgins.
Musical Arrangements: Max Pappenheim & Stephen Higgins.
Sound Design: David Gregory & Max Pappenheim.
Designer: Kitty Callister.
Lighting Designer: Jake Wiltshire.