Pros: Exposure to new ideas.
Cons: Potentially frustrating if you are not open to fringe theatre.
The title of the performance is an accurate representation of exactly what the night entails. Rough for Opera is a platform for composers and creatives to share operatic works-in-progress. Some of the pieces are performed in front of a live audience for the first time. An intimate Q&A follows each piece, allowing the composers to engage directly with the audience and obtain valuable feedback.
The scratch night for new opera consisted of three short pieces: The Two Sided Boy; Constellations; and The Sinken Sun. Professor Paul Baker of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama led the Q&A sessions which, in their own right, were necessary to understand the performances better. Since some of the pieces were having their stage debut, the feedback that the artists got was essential in understanding their ideas’ potential to become part of a successful future performance.
The excerpt from The Two Sided Boy, which is currently in development, showed us the complicated relationship between reality and the virtual world of online gaming. A young boy, Max, is lost in the virtual world and we see the struggles between him and his mother, who is desperately trying to connect with her son. The audience see a hurt mother, who is simply trying to show her love to her young son, while on the screens in the background we witness Max’s gaming world. The relationship between the two worlds is tragically portrayed by the puppet Petrushka, who is hauntingly present in both worlds. There were references to Stravinsky’s ballet as we heard a mix of live and recorded sounds, while we looked at the live actors and the online avatars behind them. Since we live in a world where computer games are ubiquitous especially among the younger generation, the idea to create an opera piece based on the breakdown of communication between loved ones is incredibly relevant.
Constellations portrays humanity’s relationship to the vast cosmos through sound, music, and bodies in space. With beautiful imagery from outer space projected onto a screen, and sound, speech and music in the background, the mind wanders while we reflect upon the intimacy of solitude. Although the spoken words were distracting at times, scenographer Lauren Tata did an incredible job of projecting stunning images that are sure to make your imagination run wild.
The Sinken Sun presents a chamber opera currently in development that dips into the life, work, and legacy of 19th-century poet John Clare. We witness how a present-day student finds himself connected to Clare’s work, mostly through the themes of alienation and struggles with identity. The intriguing concept of the timelessness of art is portrayed with a beautiful soundtrack by John Young.
I never thought I would encounter something like Rough for Opera #14. While it wasn’t quite to my taste, I am glad for the experience. If you ever go to see something similar — there is a proposal for #15 on 7 March 2017 — go in with an open mind and allow yourself to be immersed in the world of creative opera.
Composers: Freya Ireland, Anna Clock, Martin Ward
Lyricists: Elizabeth Swift, John Clare, Martin Ward
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.
Booking Information: http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/rough_for_opera