Sunday, 2 August 2009

Nightmare Songs (Opera della Luna)

First Opera House show of the festival is a two-man piece called "Nightmare Songs". Like "A Song To Sing, O", it is a compilation of songs (mainly patter but not exclusively) from nearly all the G&Ses, woven together with a plot. The plot is entirely fictional, and apart from mentions of Rupert D'Oyly Carte and Martyn Green, has no historical people in it, but the production "is dedicated to all those performers who could have been stars, but, through no fault of their own, never were", and I have no doubt there's a number of real people who make up this patter man. (Set 'em to simmer and take off the scum...)

Simon Butteriss is discovered in bed, tossing and turning, and it would have been too easy to have him sit up and start singing the Nightmare Song. Actually, he sings a few snippets, but, as we find throughout the show, he's having trouble remembering the words. His noise wakes up a fellow lodger (Jeff Clarke), who comes in, and sits down at what to us looks like a piano, but isn't. Between them they sing and play songs from all the G&S operas, omitting only Thespis, Utopia and Grand Duke (and barely touching on Trial), with some rather clever medleys as well. It's not all patter; "I Built Upon A Rock" comes through, to good effect.

For most of the first half, and part of the second, the audience is not permitted to applaud - songs cut off abruptly with another line of dialogue, which fits the mood of the scene rather better than stopping for applause would.

The show concludes on a rather sad note, but after the bows, both men come back on stage again and finally manage to get through the entire nightmare song without losing the words.

I can't talk of this show without making some mention of the lighting. This was done well, synchronizing with the bedside lamp, and giving snap changes of color to indicate different operas (requiring precise timing in some of the medleys). There were one or two places where it would have been smoother to have an actual follow spot, rather than just turning out one light and turning up another, and one point where I thought the stage was a bit too dark to see what was going on, but it was made up for by the excellent window. Not only could you see moonlight through it (which was put to great effect when the poor patter man was completely indecisive about whether to get up (turning on his lamp) or go to sleep (turning it off), but it gave a good rendition of the coming day by brightening and becoming yellower. (I'm not sure what performers did in those days, but it seems to me he may have overslept a bit. The sunlight was streaming in rather strongly by the time he decided to get up!)

A fun show, and skilfully put together. Both men did an excellent job of delivering their words all the way to the gallery (where I was seated). Very much enjoyed it.

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