Greenside – Emerald Theatre
A Mirrored Monet is not just a musical for art enthusiasts; it is a story of love, friendship and defying societal norms. Based on Claude Monet’s diaries, articles and correspondence with other Impressionist artists, the show presents an insight into the passionate and tumultuous life of one of the world’s most beloved painters.
We first meet a grumpy and impulsive Monet (played by Crawford Logan) who explains to the audience that he has a creative block: he cannot finish his painting The Water Lilies. To distract himself, he tells us that he’ll take us back in time to Paris, to the beginning of his career. We are then introduced to Young Monet (Matthew Hydzik), as well as Manet (Craig Hunter), Renoir (Chris Dodd) and Bazille (Chris McLeish). In their first number together, they gather around a table, drinking and engaging in debates about taking risks with their art. The singing is excellent and their voices sound fantastic together. However, for the space that they are performing in, microphones are unnecessary. Moreover, and unfortunately, they were set at a volume that was excessively loud.
Whenever artworks are mentioned in speech or song, they are cleverly projected onto a blank canvas on the stage. Not only does this elevate the viewing experience, but it also serves as a valuable aid for those who are unfamiliar with the referenced artworks. We see, for example, Monet’s Camille (also known as The Woman in the Green Dress), Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, and Renoir’s Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil. A song dedicated to en plein air (the act of painting outside) describes why Monet loves working outdoors – ‘no more stuffy studios’, much to Renoir’s protests and worries about getting caught in a rain storm.
Within the lyrics of the songs, the artworks mentioned are discussed in detail. The villains of the story, Marquis (Marc McMillan) and Leroy (Graham Mackay-Bruce) mock the Impressionists’ painting style, calling it blasphemous. They sing vehemently about protecting the Paris Salon from their works and upholding the ‘golden age of French art’. They plan to write terrible reviews for the Impressionists’ shows, even though Leroy admits to the audience he secretly admires the work.
Sarah Haddath as Monet’s first wife Camille has a stunning voice, particularly highlighted when she sings There Are No Stars and I’m Not Ready My Love. Rhian Ferrigan, playing Suzanne, is equally talented. However, her solo Just Let Me at Him is disrupted by Camille’s screams of labour in the background – it would have been more enjoyable to just listen to the song.
The plot of A Mirrored Monet needs to be tightened to feel more comprehensible, as at times certain narrative threads appear overly elaborate. Moreover, it can be challenging to fully grasp the motivations of the characters and more clarity is needed there. The songs are rather short and conclude abruptly, but this may be because the musical is currently in development. It is certainly a show with great potential and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will progress.
Directed by: Fraser Grant
Composed by: Carmel Owen
Musical Director: Neil Metcalfe
A Mirrored Monet plays at Emerald Theatre, Greenside @ Nicolson Square (venue 209) until 26 Aug. Further information and bookings can be found here.