Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Sexual tension, gross incompetence and barely concealed chaos lurk just beneath the surface in this hilarious take on Pergolesi’s comic intermezzo, La Serva Padrona. The baroque meets blues new English libretto creates a farcical story-line that is worryingly life-like.
Rebecca Marriott has got a wicked sense of humour. Anyone who can get the phrases “super soft velvet, feel it on your skin” and “cashmere for the papal rear” into an opera setting as well as include the words “Viagra”, “Inland Revenue”, Corporation Tax”, National Insurance” and “London School of Economics” seamlessly into rhyming couplets, all the while referring to toilet paper must be in line for some major comic award by somebody.
Arranging notes around this three-ply tissue of a lexicon must also have required a bit of musical ingenuity but this is something Danyal Dhondy obviously possesses in spades. His score has baroque meeting blues and creates a medium through which the bass voice of Crispin Lewis and the superb soprano tones of Joanne Watson can bring Marriott’s thoroughly hilarious libretto to life.
Watson, as Selena the secretary, is sexy, seductive, salacious and very soon in charge in the sense that she has Lewis, as Hugo the CEO, dancing to her tune like a puppet on a string. It’s clear that she is the face of the toilet tissue enterprise but, as in all operas, disaster is never far away. The plot twists and turns through a series of side-splitting arias and recitatives leading to a ridiculously contrived denouement that had the audience in tears – and not the usual tears of sadness associated with opera heroines dying lingering, vibrato-fuelled deaths either.
An “orchestra” of keyboard, violin, double bass and guitar (remember the blues bit!) provided sympathetic support to the two singers and a simple set of brightly coloured boxes and executive desk and chair created a believable background for the best forty-five minutes entertainment I’ve seen in a very long time.
And spare a thought for the anonymous intern, played by the extremely talented and versatile Jordan Ellaych. Not a word did he utter, nor a note did he sing but he’s a real scene stealer. Possessed of a rubber face and rather expressive eyebrows, he did what all good interns learn to do – be seen and not heard whilst keeping the boss supplied with coffee, the office in some sort of order as well as shifting the scenery and props around. And he’s a dab hand at juggling toilet rolls.
Exquisitely staged, consummately sung and hilarious to boot, this is a gem of a show from a company that is bursting with talent. Can’t wait to see what they do next!