FringeReview Scotland 2023
In three acts, we are teased by a beginning without performers, where a cloud is sung, and hung before our eyes. It presents the atmosphere and design of what we are about to receive. Once it has drawn its last breath, act two introduces our performer to the stage where they arrive in blackout, perform and sing their movements, introduce an abstract painting and then a curtain drops slowly, as they present human behaviour and how we announce ourselves into being. Act three begins with them emerging from a cave at the floor of the curtain and perform their favourite poem. It ends with them leaving, all sung as stage directions and interpretation.
There is a complex simple paradox at the heart of this piece. What emerges seems like simplicity itself, after all the Opera tells us what is happening next – blackouts, performers arrival etc. and we start with this is an opera which sings itself into being. The form that it takes is part of its genius as it realises that in Tramway Theatre 1 provides the opportunity to play and engage on a large – perhaps specifically operatic – scale. And so, it does.
But it also realises it has an audience and therefore the pace is measured where we are taken along with the meta universe it has created to the point where the gaps engender laughter. it is funny. It is very funny.
And who knew? Prejudiciosuly perhaps when we think of the serious side of both opera and cutting edge theatre, we don’t always expect the push for new horizons creatively to take a structured, intensely structured, art form and play with it to such an extent that it has humour as its delivery mechanism. But here it does.
And the best comedy is played straight. It has due regard and respect for its sources, and this is sung beautifully, with the performance being very much on point. It is delivered in a crafted and well directed piece of theatre which has as its focus, the audience. That connection was delivered with a great degree of skill.
Structurally this is very well done, favourite pieces within it included the opening with the cloud, the dropping of the abstract art, the dropping of the curtain slowly and the cave being opened to allow the performer out. Ahl is not only engaging, but very measured in her delivery. Each section comes at us with a great degree of thought evidence in its delivery and in its execution.
By the end of the show and as we left, reflecting on the performance, it was abundantly clear that I was not alone. People were in great discourse over the piece, and some had even raised themselves to give an ovation. It was deserved.
I do have, however one criticism. This promised an opera with smells, and I was not getting any of that. I was sat to the side of the middle section so either the perfume was not sufficiently pungent to reach me or the people around we were so sufficiently beautifully covered in perfume that I had enough to tickle my nose without getting to smell my way through an opera which sang itself into existence.