SOPHIE PARKER reviews UCOpera’s Libuše at the Bloomsbury Theatre. University College Opera masterfully presented the British premiere of Bedřich Smetana’s 1872 opera, Libuše, at the newly refurbished Bloomsbury Theatre. As is traditional for the company, the cast and orchestra both consisted of a mix of students and professionals, adding a professionalism which some other university performances may lack. It did, however, have the less fortunate secondary effect of making the students in business dress look a little like they were on a spring week placement, rather than the directors and board of an unnamed Big Four firm. Anyone even slightly familiar with Smetana’s opera might be wondering what corporate law has to do with Princess Libuše (Kirstin Sharpin) and her medieval court — and justifiably so. Under the direction of Cecilia Stinton, the UCOpera production brought the opera’s brotherly tension and monarchical politics into the modern day, with the Princess having inherited…Continue Reading

Libuše

SOPHIE PARKER reviews UCL Musical Theatre Society’s production of Sweeney Todd at the Bloomsbury Theatre. The character of Sweeney Todd first entered the public consciousness in 1846, in the Victorian penny dreadful serial The String of Pearls. These days, of course, most people come into contact with him through some variation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 Broadway musical. The tale’s long history made UCL Musical Theatre Society’s claim that they would be presenting ‘Sweeney as you’ve never seen it before’ particularly bold. The premise of the production overseen by Mabel Moll and Vaishnavi Mohan (director and producer respectively) was to have the events unfold in 1979, the year Sweeney Todd debuted. This concept could have worked incredibly well given the similarities between the social context at the time and the issues explored in the show. The ‘Winter of Discontent’ which started that year saw tens of thousands of…Continue Reading

Sweeney Todd

SOPHIE PARKER reviews Blue Departed at the VAULT Festival.  As part of the Vault Festival 2019, emerging playwright Serafina Cusack’s latest work Blue Departed explores the relationship between heroin addiction, lost love and fourteenth century Italian poetry. As the production illustrates, there are more crossovers between the three than may initially be imagined, but the piece also raises the question of where to draw the line between inspiration and adaptation in dramatic works. The play pulls Dante Alighieri (Mark Conway), most famous for his Divine Comedy, six hundred years into the future to our present day and gives him a heroin addiction. The now near-legendary object of Dante’s love, Beatrice (Rebecca Layoo), joins him in the modern world. Following a series of traumatic events, Beatrice is dead on the floor and Dante has retreated into a perpetual high, speaking to the rotting corpse in his kitchen and hearing her speak back. This is where the…Continue Reading

Blue Departed

SOPHIE PARKER reviews UCL Musical Theatre Society’s production of Edges at the Bloomsbury Studio. Edges, a piece of musical theatre written in 2005, is the earliest work from creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who would go on to write music for Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman, and ‘City of Stars’ for La La Land, for which they won a Best Original Song Academy Award, amongst other accolades. The show explores the trials of growing up at university, and rings true since Pasek and Paul were 19-year-old undergrads at the University of Michigan when they wrote it. The subject matter, along with the minimalist staging, and the cast of just four and two musicians (Louis Shaw on drums and Yutong Zhang on keys, and also the show’s Musical Director), meant the production could very easily have felt like a sixth-form recital. However, the charisma of these cast members (Dan…Continue Reading

Edges