This theatrical reworking of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel is dazzling, entertaining and disturbing
BY TRUDY HOWSON LGBT POET LAUREATE
First, it’s the building. Totally classy and gorgeous… you immediately feel you’re on a special night out. Next. It’s the audience, buzzing and friendly. Then it’s the opera … and what an opera it is.
It dazzles. It entertains. It disturbs!
The Handmaids Tale is a brilliant musical and theatrical reworking of the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, which depicts a fundamentalist dystopian society called Gilead. In this place women are stripped of their rights and freedoms, and institutionalised sex and violence reign supreme.
Life in Gilead is revealed through the experience of one of the handmaidens, Offred, who is a surrogate breeder for the elite class, (who are mainly infertile). It charts her struggle to remember who she was before she was captured and brainwashed.
Composer Poul Ruders score enthrals us from the onset. It’s musical breadth, encompassing contemporary and classical themes, drives the narrative. We are gripped by its emotional intensity. Joana Carneiro conducts with passion and precision.
The set is simple but effective. The stage mostly framed with curtains, behind which we see video projections showing glimpses of Offred’s previous life with her daughter and family. The staged scenes depicting the handmaidens daily routine are both shocking and impressive.
Kate Lindsey’s Offred immediately engages, with her beautiful, expressive voice. Her solos are haunting…we want her to escape!
Aunt Lydia the harridan warden played by Emma Bell employs her huge soprano range to good effect in intimidating the handmaidens.
Robert Heyward’s Commandor, who aims to impregnate Offred, almost engages our sympathy with his smooth silky reassuring voice.
It was refreshing to see such brilliant acting from the cast, as well as musicality. Also to see an opera with a mainly female creative team, led by Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon.
I loved this opera…. highly recommend it. Catch it … quick!
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Until 14 April
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