Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Porgy and Bess

George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Empire Theatre, Sunderland, and touring
(2004)

We have, in this country, so few chances to see Porgy and Bess, particularly with an American cast, that it would be foolish to allow an opportunity pass, even if the production is not all it should be.

That, unfortunately, is the situation with the current touring production (see here for tour dates). It's an oddly dissastisfying production. There's a good Bess (Jeris Cates) and an excellent Porgy (Stephen B Finch), but a very weak - at times almost inaudible - Sportin' Life (Duane Moody): Bess, You is My Woman Now was beautifully done but It Ain't Necessarily So was a missed opportunity.

Given the exigencies of one-night-stand touring, the set is as good as one could reasonably expect and the lighting atmospheric, but the hurricane scene was almost laughable: surely we have long since got past the stage of suggesting a hurricane by lightning flashes and the cast running around the stage with their hands above their heads?

It is, in fact, in the movement that this production falls down. It is very - the only word that springs to mind is conventional, particularly in the crowd scenes. Porgy and Bess cries out for naturalistic playing and this production gives it, but only in part. In Act II Crown virtually rapes Bess, a powerful piece of theatre, but in the ensemble scenes the movement and gesture is so stylised that there is a lack of any sense of naturalism or even real life.

This curate's eggy-ness - good in parts - typifies the production. I was glad to have seen it and, indeed, loved moments of it, but came away with the sense of having been let down.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan