Monday, 9 April 2018

Fantasies can be dangerous: Mark-Anthony Turnage's 'Coraline'

Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline - Mary Bevan (Coraline), Kitty Whatley (Other Mother) and Ghost Children - Royal Opera(Photo ROH | Stephen Cummiskey)
Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline - Mary Bevan (Coraline), Kitty Whatley (Other Mother)
and Ghost Children (Dominic Sedgwick, Harry Nicoll, Gillian Keith)
Royal Opera (Photo ROH | Stephen Cummiskey)
Mark-Anthony Turnage Coraline; Mary Bevan, Kitty Whately, Alexander Robin Baker, Britten Sinfonia, Sian Edwards: Royal Opera House at the Barbican Theatre
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 7 Apr 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Strong performances of Mark-Anthony Turnage's new opera

Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novella Coraline is a coming of age tale that has won more plaudits than you can shake a stick at and Coraline’s deliciously dark journey into another world has been adapted for film, tv, a comic book, musical and even a video game. Now in 2018 The Royal Opera in a co-production with Folkoperan, Opera de Lille, Theater Freiburg and Victorian Opera bring us Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline the opera. This world premiere at the Barbican Theatre was directed by Aletta Collins with the Britten Sinfonia under the musical direction of Sian Edwards. At this performance (7 April 2018), our plucky heroine was Mary Bevan with Kitty Whately and Alexander Robin Baker as her parents.

Coraline’s discovery of a bricked-up door which becomes a doorway to another world propels her on an adventure away from the rain and crazy infuriating grown-ups into a world where all her desires can come true.
Economically directed by Aletta Collins on an ingeniously fluid set, the action glides seamlessly from one location and world to the next. All the characters are nicely played. Mary Bevan’s Coraline is the very picture of wide-eyed innocence who still needs to learn that fantasies can be dangerous. Alexander Robin Baker is a hoot as her delightfully eccentric Father and pathetic Other Father. Coraline’s Other Mother, Kitty Whately, is delectably passive aggressive and Gillian Keith, Frances McCafferty and Harry Nicoll deliver terrifically bonkers turns as the neighbours Miss Spink, Miss Forcible and Mr Bobo. There’s virtuoso playing from the Britten Sinfonia. The singing too is delivered with consummate ease and the diction is superb. So what’s the problem?

Learning that the grass isn’t greener and that people who pay you a lot of attention don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart are hard lessons to learn for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old. Our heroine goes on a huge physical and emotional journey that’s simply not reflected in the music. The musical palette is primarily dark, there’s no wonderment or fear nor any particularly memorable delineation between worlds. I felt like a disassociated observer rather than someone taking the voyage with her. This is a tale of courage, of being “very very scared and doing the right thing anyway” that left me cold.

So, worth seeing out of interest? Certainly for the performances, but I’m genuinely disappointed that what looked like being a sure-fire hit simply didn’t weave a magic spell, but then “if things weren’t boring sometimes”…
Reviewed by Anthony Evans


Coraline
The Royal Opera House
Barbican Theatre
Saturday 7 April 2018
Coraline : Mary Bevan
Mother/Other Mother : Kitty Whately
Father/Other Father : Alexander Robin Baker
Miss Spink/Ghost Child 1 : Gillian Keith
Miss Forcible : Fran McCafferty
Mr Bobo/Ghost Child 2 : Harry Nicoll
Ghost Child 3 : Dominic Sedgwick
Britten Sinfonia
Conductor : Sian Edwards
Director : Aletta Collins

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  • Labour of love: a new musical direction at Finchcocks - interview
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  • Mr Handel's Vauxhall Pleasures at the London Handel Festival (★★★★½) - concert review
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  • Planet Hugill’s roving music correspondent, Tony Cooper, reports on Berlin’s Festtage (★★★★) - concert review
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