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Giles Howe and Katy Lipson present

Turkish Delight - The Opera

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Written by Giles Howe and Katy Lipson

Directed by Daniel Lawrence

Rosemary Branch Theatre

25 - 30 August, 2008

 

 

 

1Couzens

A review by Mags Gaisford for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 


‘The Turk’ is not performing as he used to. His interests have left his marital boudoir to settle on the fresh - faced  ‘British Woman’ whose youthful sex - appeal is launching him, right this minute, into a very promising career of adultery that will do proper justice to his devilish good looks.Meanwhile, an overly made - up and under - dressed Turkish wife despairs at the death of romance. Simultaneously, in England, the effeminate flat - mate of the ‘British Woman’ acknowledges his love for her and pines pathetically for his ‘angel delight’. The ‘British Woman’ arrives in Turkey to re - ignite the passion of her holiday romance. She and the Turk celebrate ‘soaring to new heights of pretension’ in picturesque poses.
The ‘British Man’ decides to make the heroic gesture of a life - time and follow his love out to Turkey. The wife decides to continue stewing in lustful frustration. There’s a glorious Queen - style chorus where the two broken - hearted characters watch the lovers from dramatically - lit spying booths and all are united in a general sense of passion. This is clearly going to end in tears. The characters sing in unison again, on a fateful night, ‘tonight will only serve to encourage my neurosis’. Then there is a crime of passion and a long and messy aftermath.

The programme lists definitions of opera, musical, burlesque, soap opera and cabaret, to emphasise the piece’s defiance of genre. A piano tinkling away backstage sets the pace and is the only accompaniment. It’s quick and jumpy, alluding to silent - movie music, at times becoming operatic pastiche (I’m sure I heard elements of Carmen in there). Largely a - tonal, discordant, but playful and fast. This works brilliantly at the start, as the plot gathers steam, shaping itself into an oh - so - knowingly cliche’d and highly camp rendition of the perils of your classic holiday romance. Its edginess prevents ‘musical’ style inertia, thus allowing, somehow, the characters to pull off some pretty terrible lines with style. The Turk (Adam McNab) sings a very funny justification for his ‘first affair’ including lines like ‘I’m only human’ and ‘she inspires the music of the spheres’.

The characters don’t need more than one dimension each. These shameless stereotypes inhabit their strange little world of self - indulgence, negotiating their voices around erratic scales, hurling themselves like iron filings at the magnet of tragedy. They glow against the backdrop of James Wallace’s sparse black set, whose main feature is a sliding bed for the ladies to languish upon.

There’s a bit of a problem after the interval. The main action has passed: delightfully, inevitably, parodically. The second half involves the emotions left in the wake of events, which inspire some absurd, gothic actions and a lot of writhing and chest - beating. As the pace slows to a meander it’s difficult to keep sympathy with these characters as they fade slowly into despair. I feel as fickle and guilty as the one who’s lost interest in the romance.  There are moments when keeping up with the absurdly ambitious musical score feels a little like indulging prodigal children let loose on the piano long after their bed time.

Magoria Edler’s Betsy Cohen (the Turk’s wife, and the only character with a name) is the most interesting and challenging character. Fraying at the seams, she clings manically to delusions of feminine allure whilst munching her way through a box of Turkish Delights, singing ‘I’m extremely fragile... so highly strung I can easily reach a high C’ (which I don’t think she does). Silje Lervik’s is an incredibly powerful and competent voice.

There are some clever moments of synchronised, contradictory statements: for example when the Turk and the British woman, wrapped around each other, sing ‘(don’t) ask me to marry you, please’.

There’s some wonderful choreography towards the end, which does justice to the performance’s bizarre and eclectic aesthetic. The plot, we are told in the programme, grew organically, with new twists and songs being added along the way. I can’t help thinking you get too much of a sense of this and that it could have been about 20 minutes shorter. After all, you don’t want to have to chew on a Turkish Delight.


Box Office: 0207 7046665

www.rosemarybranch.co.uk

tickets £15 (£12 concessions)

 

 

 

 

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