A new work of musical theatre presented by up-and-coming talent, together with vivacious staging and ancient Greek comedy.
Lysistrata, originally a Greek comedy coined by Aristophanes in 411 BC, has been transformed into a fiery opera full of extravagant cross-dressing, hanging phallic objects and vivacious staging by Bill Bankes-Jones, the founder of opera festival, Tête à Tête. Commissioned by MA Music Theatre of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the school’s impressively built Embassy Theatre is currently showcasing some of its talented music theatre students. The stage holds a platform for Lysistrata to parade on, campaigning and yielding support from the rest of the female sex to make a stand against their men fighting in war, with stretchy lyre-like props to represent the holy Acropolis. Colin Mayes’ hearty set reflects the erotic conundrum faced by its characters with lighting designer, Sam Smith to keep things glowing when scenes got hot.
Lysistrata’s preventative solution, as the saying goes, is to ‘make love, not war’. Although proposed with good intention this burdens both husbands and wives. This causes raucous beatings between stern old ladies and their miserable old men, and wild erections – you would think you had walked into a Carry On movie. Head of costumes, Carmel Hall doesn’t hold back on her imagination with flamboyant geriatric trappings, hand-made golden breasts and Athenian gowns that tie in smoothly with the Greek tale.
Julian Kelly plays on the keys and conducts with verve as clarinetist, Carl Raven, bass guitarist, Doughlas Grannell, and drum artists, Gareth Roberts express the plot’s saucy frustrations over minimalist composition composed by David Merriman. Eilannin Black is our militant Lysistrata who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Libby Rodliffe, as Kalonike’ is her hedonist pal who wills the ladies (and audience) into submission with her cheeky deviance. Neil Cameron and Claudio González Ravanal play three different roles, in both genders, adding to the comic foray with Nora Perone as the tenacious commissioner who eventually becomes powerless under Lysistrata’s reasoning. Holly Sayer and sweet-voiced Sally Lloyd as ready-to-explode husband and damsel in distress wifey get the second half of the show on the road to a hopeful ending, compared to its slow start.
Bankes-Jones and librettist Helen Watts have explored an ancient play that has the wit and trimmings appropriate for an opera, yet the notion that the production was an opera wasn’t completely evident. Voices needed to be tighter and, furthermore, operatic. Had Lysistrata been named musical theatre the audience wouldn’t have felt as dissatisfied. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to admire and praise here for a brand new piece of work.
Review by Mary Nguyen
“Sex is a weapon”.
LysistrataRavaged by war, the men are disillusioned and unsure any more of what they are fighting for.
The women meanwhile hold the fort, but with their families in tatters.
Lysistrata has a plan to put an end to the senseless fighting, but it comes at a high price… Can the women of Greece do it? Will the men succumb? Who will come out on top?
Lysistrata is a World Premiere Opera commissioned by the MA Music Theatre course at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Directed by Bill Bankes-Jones (founder and Artistic Director of Tête à Tête), with Musical Direction by Julian Kelly, Movement Direction by Yarit Dor and Design by Colin Mayes
World Premiere, Commissioned by MA Music Theatre
A new musical by Helen Watts and David Merriman, after Aristophanes
Director – Bill Bankes-Jones
Musical Director – Julian Kelly
Designer – Colin Mayes
Movement/Fight Director – Yarit Dor
Composer – David Merriman
Writer – Helen Watts
Singing Coach – Maria Huesca
Stage Manager – Hannah Roy
Deputy Stage Manager – Tasha Dubowski
Rehearsal Repetiteurs – Nick Barstow, Oran Doyle
Lighting Designer – Sam Smith
Production Manager – Phil Rowe
Sound Designer – Harry Barker
Sound Engineer – Peter Eltringham
Costume Supervisor – Carmel Hall
MA Music Theatre Course Leader – Professor Paul Barker
Performed by – MA Music Theatre students
Embassy Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Lysistrata – Eilannin Black*, Haley Catherine**
Kalonike – Libby Rodliffe
Eirene (Peace) – Holly Sayer
Myrrhine – Sally Lloyd*, Maria Leon**
Hermaphroditus – Neil Cameron
Lampito – Claudio González Ravanal
Ismenia – Monika Valkunaite*, Nora Perone**
Charmion – Emily Potts
Eumelia – Jen Coles
Sostrate – Shannon Evison
Alessandra – Drou Constantinou
Metrodora – Leanne Talbot
Theron – Laura Meaton
Cleon – Elle Daniel
Pyrrhus – Ciara Murphy
Argyros – Abby Restall
Commissioner – Nora Perone*, Monika Valkunaite**
Policeman 1 – Neil Cameron
Policeman 2 – Emily Potts
Policeman 3 – Monika Valkunaite*, Nora Perone**
The Oracle – Leanne Talbot
Kinesias – Holly Sayer
Slave – Claudio González Ravanal
Auxentius (Spartan Herald) – Maria Leon*, Sally Lloyd**
Armistice Commissioner – Neil Cameron
Athenian Leader – Emily Potts
Sentry – Monika Valkunaite*, Nora Perone**
Drunk Citizen – Abby Restall
Swings – Jen Coles, Drou Constantinou, Elle Daniel, Neil Cameron, Ciara Murphy
* Tuesday 12 May 2.00pm, Wednesday 13 May 7.00pm, Thursday 14 May 2.00pm
** Tuesday 12 May 7.00pm, Wednesday 13 May 2.00pm, Thursday 14 May 7.00pm
Student Production Team
Assistant Director – Sinead O’Callaghan
Sound #1 – Jack Lord
Sound #2 – Tom Matthews
Sound #3 – Bethany Taylor
Sound #3 – David Sonubi
Assistant Sound Designer – Laura Gingell
Sound Engineer – Curtis Chadwick
Band: Reeds (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone) – Carl Raven, Bass Guitar – Douglas Grannell, Drums / Percussion – Gareth Roberts, Keyboard / Musical Director – Julian Kelly
Approximate running time: 1 hour 30 minutes, including a 15 minute interval.
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Swiss Cottage, London NW3 3HY
Thursday 14th May 2015