Triptych

Theatre, Drama
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 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
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© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
7/8
© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

 (© Richard Hubert Smith)
8/8
© Richard Hubert Smith

'Triptych'

The title of this slick, sassy and entertaining 80-minute show from Opera Erratica, developed through workshop collaboration between composers, performers, writer Orlando Wells and director/co-writer Patrick Eakin Young is a homage to Puccini’s ‘Il Trittico’. And like the great Italian’s work, ‘Triptych’ offers one tragic opera, one comedy and one about nuns.

The white, er, black-box stage of this intimate venue is subtly designed by artist Gavin Turk. His trademark fakes – polystyrene cups cast in bronze then painted to look polystyrene – are a visual metaphor for the deceptions of art and the conceits of opera.

It begins with ‘Reunion’ by Christian Mason, combining the investiture of a young nun with an interview with her former lover. It develops musically from a capella intonations in plain chant form as the novice is invested by knife-wielding nuns. The musical accompaniment shifts from medieval Hildegard of Bingen-style plainchant to the contemporary sounds of sacred minimalism.

‘A Party’ by Thomas Smetryns evolves from a young French women, learning English from an old-fashioned LP language course. The repeated demure phrases are gradually taken up by the performers who become the LP characters. It’s an extremely deft theatre piece: as the performers speak the lines exactly in time with the record, the double entendres of a class-based sex comedy escalate into an orgy. The rhythmically repeating dialogue blossoms into singing as a radio playing light orchestral music fills out the textures.

The exhausted post-orgy scene is seamlessly followed by a redressing and presentation of a mystery concerning the disappearance of an architectural photographer. ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered’ by Christopher Mayo is read between the performers like a noir-style novella; as before the vocal music builts from speech to ensemble singing. It all ends with a humming chorus in compliment to the broadcast electronica.

And while the pieces seem to lack dramatic purpose, the cast is exemplary in their execution. The young singers (Catherine Carter, Lucy Goddard, Kate Symonds-Joy, Callie Swarbrick and Oskar McCarthy) tackle not just precise ensemble singing that provides the majority of the music, but all the while enacting intense and comic drama in three very different pieces. They’re all names to look out for.

By: Jonathan Lennie

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