The Marriage of Figaro

Mark Evans, Sinead Campbell-Wallace & Emma Morwood in OTC's 'The Marriage of Figaro'. Photo: Kip Carroll

Mark Evans, Sinead Campbell-Wallace & Emma Morwood in OTC's 'The Marriage of Figaro'. Photo: Kip Carroll

Emma Morwood in OTC's 'The Marriage of Figaro'. Photo: Kip Carroll

Emma Morwood in OTC's 'The Marriage of Figaro'. Photo: Kip Carroll

The Marriage of Figaro is possibly one of the most re-imagined operas of all time – having been done in every conceivable period, style, and setting. In this OTC production, we are in the swinging sixties. Designer Adrian Linford has been up and down Carnaby Street grabbing floral-patterned shirts, slim dresses in aquamarine blues and tangerines for the girls and boys of the Almaviva household and picking up some matching wallpaper for the bathroom and living room on the way. The 'swinging' bit of this nomenclature extends well beyond the décor of course, and is short-hand to describe the philandering Count who wants to bed his servant Susanna. It's also logical, that this 'Count' is more about counting money – and Wynn Pencarreg's shaven head, gold accoutrements and leather jacket makes a very impressive twentieth century equivalent, both physically and vocally.

However, where the production parts company with similar updatings, is when the Countess enters and is very heavily pregnant. This serves to make Sinead Campbell-Wallace's persona even more vulnerable than usual. Fearful as she is of her authoritarian, volatile husband, she has the added responsibility of an unborn child. When she levers herself from sitting positions, sometimes with great verisimilitude and sometimes not, it's hard to know if this is part of the general hokum or a plaintive note of realism. As she delivers her signature aria 'Dove Sono', I'm not sure that her condition adds to the poignancy of the moment, and the Count seems at one time unaware of her condition or in one scene strangely ambivalent for one who presumably wants an heir for his ill-gotten gains.

Fallenbride1-(1).jpgFallenbride1-(3).jpgFallenbride1-(4).jpgDeirdre Cooling Nolan, Martin Higgins Emma Morwood & Wyn in OTC's 'The Marriage of Figaro.'Adding to the comic momentum once again is Martin Higgins, reprising his role as Dr. Bartolo in a previous OTC production of the Barber, here a hypochondriac medic becoming more and more alarmed at his own diagnoses. For this production, however, he adds a country yokel to his repertoire - doubling as Antonio, a wellied gardener – the bulging eyes and delivery reminiscent of Ronnie Barker doing something similar on TV. Deirdre Cooling-Nolan's Marcellina (Figaro's nemesis as he promised to marry her if he couldn't repay a debt) is your typical tweed-suited librarian type, full of unfulfilled sexual desire. When she eventually falls for Bartolo, their hilarious passionate romp on a wedding table almost elcipses the duet of Susana and Figaro happening on the other side of the stage. Eugene Ginty's Basilio was a strange hybrid of effeminate interior designer and clergyman but he conveyed sufficient wheedling sycophancy for his 'betters', while Gabriela Istoc was self assured and revealed a promising future as Barbarina.

Mark Evans' Figaro, whose first appearance with rolled sleeves and tool belt is a perfect get-up for a DIY Mr. Fixit - arranging covert meetings and assignations and carrying out running repairs when things go wrong- was a straightforward, 'workman like' interpretation, more a victim of circumstance than an affable schemer. With his fine baritone, Evans' Figaro is a good match for Emma Morwood's Susanna, also in good form. Cherubino morphs from angelic rogue in pageboy livery in the period staging of this opera to an overgrown schoolboy with preppy blazer and an unruly mop of fair hair to match: Martha Bredin's baleful stares, a lap-dog devotion to the Countess, physical awkwardness, and buffoon like presence evokes a teenage Boris Johnson - which was just perfect for this production.

Despite the high jinx, conductor Fergus Shiel manages to hold the ensemble and small wind band together, and Maréad Hurley's accompaniment of the recitative on piano provides a seamless underlay between the numbers. Sometimes the stage business almost overpowers the music – the frenetic pace of Mozart's semi-quavers matched with slightly less physicality might have been sufficient to convey the bedlam in the Big House.

John White is a theatre director and workshop facilitator.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Marriage of Figaro by W.A. Mozart

8 May - 2 June, 2010; on tour.

Produced by Opera Theatre Company
In Samuel Beckett Theatre (on tour)

Conductor: Fergus Shiel

Director: Anilese Miskimmon

Designer: Adrian Linford

With: Wynn Pencarreg, Sinead Campbell-Wallace, Emma Morwood, Martin Higgins, Deirdre Cooling-Nolan, Eugene Ginty, Gabriela Istoc, Mark Evans, Martha Bredin,