Glare

Theatre, West End
Recommended
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Søren Nils Eichberg’s 75-minute sci-fi opera ‘Glare’ begins appropriately, with a blinding white light turned on the audience.

Then out of the ensuing darkness, wham! A dissonant tutti chord explodes from the pit, and the excellent Chroma chamber ensemble under Geoffrey Paterson get down and dirty with a sleazy groove, topped off with interjections of pumping and scratchy electronica. So far so good.

The action begins with Alex (tenor Amar Muchhala) dragging a body wrapped in polythene and tipping it into a dumpster. We are to led to assume that the ‘corpse’ is in fact a robot that has outlived its usefulness, as Alex’s ex-girlfriend Christina (mezzo Clare Presland) goes on to plead with him to be kind to his new toy, Lea (soprano Sky Ingram).  

Emotionally sympathetic, sexually insatiable and always available; the ‘perfect’ Lea, is also an android says Alex’s scientist friend Michael (baritone Ashley Riches).

However, those expecting a gripping David Kronenberg-style drama will be disappointed with librettist Hannah Dübgen’s weak linear narrative – a confusing plot that gets bogged down in tedious conversations about perfection in relationships. One long scene even involves an entire game of pool – itself more interesting than the interaction between its protagonists.

The four cast members all sing competently, particularly Muchhala, who has to cope with punishing tessitura while doing an impression of ‘The Scream’. But so little happens that director Thaddeus Strassberger resorts to extended sex scenes and expositional mini-acts to reinforce plot points.

There is a big reveal, but as it comes right at the end, its implications are not explored. We still know nothing about any of the characters but we have heard plenty of sixth-form hypothesising about relationships and the flaws of perfection. With sexual violence towards women a disturbingly unexamined theme, it is troublingly unclear what the message actually is here.

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