During the next few weeks Highgate’s Gatehouse theatre attempts to revamp Verdi. Playing host to Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s 2012 run of the three act classic La Taviata, Highgate takes north Londoners into the East of the city, to ‘La Traviata’; a burlesque club above a pub.
The show jumps up from the word go and tries hard to be something different. The cast are full of energy, colour and enthusiasm, intent on bringing their world to life. The night club is archaically gaudy, from the gold nude mannequins that guard the orchestra to the flamboyant tutus and boas worn by those who fill it. The show takes all the dramatic, over the top elements of opera and drags them into a representation of a world that’s more familiar. Alfredo falls for stripper Violetta, and she negates his father and her brain tumour, all against the back drop of contemporary counter culture.
At the outset, this concept seems more promising than it ends up being. After the shock of the first 20 minutes, the scale of the opera takes over and the scenes become increasingly drawn out and over the top. The nightclub isn’t quite cool or gritty enough for the modern scene in the east, it’s feel being closer to 20s Weimar than Shoreditch 2012. This said, the cast’s energy is unrelenting and the musical ensemble resounding to the finish. If you can catch her, a high point of the show is New Zealand Soprano Claire Egan who gives a rich and feisty performance as Violetta.
Although ultimately the show rings with the characteristics of fringe opera, it’s certainly an experience and worth a look, if only to bring some fun and colour into the evenings. The Gatehouse, as ever, is worth a visit, straddling a Weatherspoons and enclosing a slightly shabby, unfailingly atmospheric feeling of stage performance without the pretension. So far as this goes, it is the perfect location for Hesketh-Harvey’s production – the foyer and Green Room pre-empting the dinge and squalor of La Traviata burlesque.
Running at Highgate Gatehouse until March the 8th.