Review: COUNT ORY, Arcola Theatre

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!Take a little Dad's Army, stir in a soupçon of Gilbert and Sullivan and a dash of The Two Ronnies and, well, the Rossini still comes through, but we're at Grimeborn and here anything goes. Well, up to a point.

The power of the boutique opera comes in its combination of the timeless music, albeit with one piano rather than an orchestra, the unique experience of hearing operatic singers performing so close up that your earlobes vibrate and the wild re-imagining of mises-en-scène.

So Opera Alegría time-travel the naughty Count (and he is a right naughty count) from the 13th century Crusades to the 20th century Home Front, all digging for victory and nylons drawn on bare legs. And it works, not least when the women, left at home, peel their market garden carrots and, er..., think (I'll say think) about their absent men.

Of course, the plot is ever so silly. The priapic Count is pursuing the aristocratic Adele but she's in love with humble farmer, Nathaniel - but she quite likes the Count too, the hussy. Various sidekicks come and go, at one time employing in the kind of bad habits left over from The Benny Hill Show. Not much chance of those lads getting to a nunnery...

If this review is making the show sound a little broad, there's plenty of genuine wit in Lindsay Bramley's libretto, some of rhymes of which would have pleased William Gilbert. And if director Benjamin Newhouse-Smith doesn't quite maintain the hectic pace his farceur's approach demands, the time never drags and the singers are given plenty of room for the arias.

And they are splendid! The ever reliable Alistair Sutherland reaches down to his boots for his bass role, Hopkins and is as fine comedian as ever. So too the sweet tenor voice Robert Jenkins, who gives us plenty of Kenneth Williamsish aghast asides. And Matthew Duncan nails his boozy account of a cellar raid perfectly.

But it's the women who really steal the show - Naomi Kilby, Caroline Carragher, Fae Evelyn and, in a trouser role, Alicia Gurney. Individually they are excellent, but they come into their own in harmonies that really bounce off the bare walls with control and power. And, sung in English without surtitles in an unforgiving space, I'm delighted to report that you can hear every word.

This production may not please everyone, but it's funny, accessible to newbies and deadly serious in honouring the music of its source. Traditionalists may scoff at some of the madcap mayhem as it's not quite a comic opera, but it's a lot of fun all the same. And very much in the spirit of the Grimeborn season.

Count Ory continues until 17 August.


Review: RIGOLETTO, Opera Holland Park

Bullying, sexism, corruption, initiation ordeals and debauched behaviour. No, it’s not another government inquiry into the antics of the elite, but Opera Holland Park kicking off the 2023 season by way of a new and thought-provoking production of Rigoletto.

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This summer, acclaimed historical performance ensemble Figure return to London’s Opera Holland Park after the success of their fantastically detailed (The Guardian) 2022 performance of Handel’s Serse with a fresh staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Unbridled desire meets magic as Figure stages Shakespeare’s celebrated comedy, accompanied by Mendelssohn’s enchanting orchestral score. 

THE LITTLE BIG THINGS Will Have World Premiere @sohoplace, Listen to the First Song Here!

The world premiere of the new British musical The Little Big Things, based on the best-selling memoir by Henry Fraser, opens @sohoplace on 2 September, with press night on 14 September, and runs until 25 November 2023.

MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY Extends Booking in London

MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, London’s premier dining experience is extending to 3rd March 2024 at The O2, London with tickets for the new dates on sale now. 

From This Author - Gary Naylor

Gary Naylor is chief London reviewer for BroadwayWorld ( and feels privileged to see so much of his home city's theatre. He writes about ... (read more about this author)



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