Trouble in Tahiti, Kino–Teatr, 25–27 October 2017, reviewed by Jane Gordon
Trouble in Tahiti is the second production from the vibrant new company Stage Left Project, which already displays
the slick professionalism of a well-oiled team. As with their first production, held in the crypt of St Mary’s in the Castle, this show makes inventive use of the space the venue has to offer. As director Amelia Cardwell explains, it’s all about being ‘site sensitive’; adapting to the performance space, whether inside or outside the venue’s normal stage. In this case, they make full use of the Kino’s gallery and balcony as a prelude to the main opera, staged within the theatre.
The close harmony trio (Chiara Vinci, Tom Clarkson and Laurence Panter) set the scene by capturing the 1950s’ style perfectly. There is a playful, effortlessness and cheeky manner to their performance as they banter with each other, interacting with the audience in a lively, exuberant musical set which precedes the main opera.
Trouble in Tahiti is a relatively unknown Bernstein Opera, written between two major works, On The Town (1944) and West Side Story (1956). The opera is a damning commentary of suburban life; of abject materialism. The couple who appear to have it all, are, in fact, desperately unhappy and unable to communicate. The vocal trio also plays an important role giving satirical commentary to the drama. In the first act, they appear to be re-enacting the couple’s former selves from happier times. It’s a poignant moment cleverly portrayed on stage, making the couple’s current times seem all the more wretched.
The two opera singers, Sophie Goldrick and Alistair Sutherland, deliver their roles flawlessly, but it is the chorus trio who consistently light up the stage with their interactions. They knit the opera together, seamlessly flowing from act to act, manipulating props, lights and interacting with the main characters. This is done with a huge amount of style and panache and is fun and brilliantly paced. Laurence Panter, who accompanies the entire opera from the keyboard and sings in the vocal trio, provides impressive support.
The Stage Left Project has been invited to the Chichester Festival next year, which celebrates Bernstein’s centenary. No doubt we will be seeing more from this dynamic new company in the near future.
Trouble in Tahiti is on tour at the end of the month. Nov 22 Uckfield, Nov 23 Margate and Nov 26 Rye. For details, www.stageleftproject.co.uk
Jane Gordon @janegordonvln