The Marriage of Figaro
Stepping Stones School, Haslemere
On 16 September 2017
Review by Louise Lewis
In the grounds of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's House, the stage is set, fairy lights twinkle magically and enticing smells waft from the caterers. A fresh September evening sees the audience wrapped up in black tie, sat under smart marquees to watch Opera Brava perform the Marriage of Figaro.
The evening has been organised to raise money for the Stepping Stones School. Charities Undershaw and DFN Charitable Foundation have transformed this once-novelist's house into a modern school for children with learning disabilities. Opera Brava has toured throughout the summer with this production before being invited to entertain at this black tie gala and the team is used to performing outside.
Unfortunately, in true English form, the weather is not kind. Partway through act one, the heavens open and the sound of torrential rain on marquee canvas all but drowns out the music. The cast and orchestra are miked downstage, but this is no competition for nature's stormy serenade.
Despite such hostile conditions, the cast battle on and I really want to be able to write a rave review as a reward for their tenacity.
Sadly, the deluge seemed to have rather dampened the energy in Brava’s Marriage of Figaro. The quality of singing was mixed and the direction lacklustre. The orchestra played beautifully, but music director Robert Bottriell leading from the piano had no sightline with the singers and consequently the performing forces often lacked cohesion.
Noteworthy performances were given by a number of the younger leads. Romantic leads Ian Beadle (Figaro) and Stephanie Bodwsorth (Susanna) have a nice dynamic, Bodsworth the efficient and unflappable maid to Beadlie’s more hotheaded Figaro. Hakan Vramsmo (Count) has a rich and enjoyable tone and his height adds to his forceful personality. Melanie Lodge (Cherubino) brings a lovely cheekiness to the role and Cameron Roles (Don Basilio) has the appropriate degree of delight in everyone’s misfortunes.
Despite strong individuals, the ensemble wasn’t firing on all cylinders. A lack of dramatic tension between the characters left the action limp. Always tricky to stage, in this show Cherubino’s window leap was particularly pathetic and during his and Susanna’s preceding struggle it looked as if the two were marking the choreography. No matter how topsy-turvy the story becomes, Director Bronek Pomorski gives the cast little to work with and the audience in turn utter little more than a titter.
Commendation is duly given to the performers keeping the show going despite the hideous weather; sadly more plaudits cannot be awarded to the production itself.