Love from Carmen

Bizet, script & music rearranged by Paul Morrall, Phil Haines, Cara McInanny and Will Laurence
Chickenshed Theatre, London

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Bethany Hamlin as Carmen Credit: Daniel Beacock
Carmen (Bethany Hamlin) and Micaela (Cerys Lambert) Credit: Daniel Beacock
Don Jose (Will Laurence) and The General (Jonny Morton) Credit: Caz Dyer
Love from Carmen Credit: Daniel Beacock

The soldiers in Chickenshed’s Love from Carmen seem to share the UK government’s hostility towards refugees. No sooner has the show begun than they charge a gathering of dancers, their grey uniforms clashing with the colourful costumes of the victims they beat to the ground.

The oppression doesn’t end there. The General (Jonny Morton) tells his men, “we need to be cruel.” But there is a problem with this instruction for Don Jose (Will Laurence), the officer given the task of day-to-day control of the refugees. He has fallen in love with Carmen (Bethany Hamlin).

She is a key figure amongst the refugees, at times entertaining them with her circus tricks and physical movements on a large red hoop suspended in the air. She is also a free spirit who has shown some interest in Don Jose but cannot love a guard. Meanwhile, Micaela (Cerys Lambert) has fallen in love with Jose.

This musical version of Bizet’s opera Carmen is set in contemporary times against a backdrop of corrugated iron and wooden walls. The opera and dialogue are replaced by a poetic rap that matches well the flowing melodies and pulsating rhythms of Bizet’s music.

Michael Bossisse’s lively choreography of dancers and occasional cartwheeling supporting cast members give a sense of speed and energy to the entertaining, one-hundred-and-thirty-five-minute, swift-moving production.

Bethany Hamlin is an engaging lead to a confident cast that includes Ashley Driver as a government minister determined to clamp down on refugees.

Although the upbeat positive depiction of the refugees in contrast with the dour negative images of the politician and his troops is a welcome contrast with the mainstream media depiction of such people, it does leave out the desperate suffering of those forced to flee homes where their families have lived for generations.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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