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Review of Vixen at The Vaults: ‘something very special’

Vixen - Photo by Robert Workman
Vixen – Photo by Robert Workman

Vixen is a reimagining of Leos Janáček’s classic 1924 opera The Cunning Little Vixen staged at the always interesting and imaginative The Vaults in Waterloo.

On arriving at the venue, you’re given a pair of headphones and instructions on how to use them because this reimagining is by Silent Opera and like silent discos, you hear everything through the headphones which add to the experience with 360-degree sound. After waiting in the slightly cramped entrance, a band of musicians walk amongst the waiting audience asking for requests and collecting money in a bucket for the homeless charity Crisis. Playing the likes of “Yellow Submarine” and “Mrs Robinson”, they warm up the audience with their playing and singing – although it was a warm night and we didn’t need a lot of warming up!

Then a tall man, seemingly an audience member pushes his way through to the bar and starts passing out free drinks but you can hear what he’s saying through the headphones as he’s a performer and the show has begun. He then guides the audience into a large room in the tunnel and the scenario unfolds. Now coming through the headphones, are voices telling us about children who have run away from home and disappeared probably becoming homeless. This is the theme of the opera which has been brought right up to date as anyone who walks through London in 2017 can see is now an enormous social problem.

Vixen is a young runaway who is taken in by Forester (played by Ivan Ludlow, the tall man from the foyer) but like the young fox in the original opera, is mistreated by Forester and his family and Vixen soon runs away. The plot develops from there and parallels the original story to its inevitable conclusion.

I can’t praise this production too highly. It uses Janáček’s sumptuous orchestral score played by a full orchestra and mixes it superbly with the live playing of the five musicians we saw in the foyer – the effect at times is mesmerising. The star of the piece is Rosie Lomas as Vixen who as the runaway is at times sparky and aggressive but also very vulnerable living on the streets. She sings like an angel and has the audience in the palm of her hand – we care for her safety living rough on the streets. But mention must go to the rest of this amazingly talented, young cast. Robin Bailey plays various parts and tenor sax. Tim Dickinson also plays several roles and the oboe. Jessie Grimes plays Forester’s wife and the clarinet, Rosanna Ter-Berg plays a number of parts and the flute and Phillip Grannell also plays a number of roles and the violin. These days it’s not enough to sing and act – you have to play a musical instrument too – I marvel at their versatility.

Daisy Evans directs with a sure touch and whilst I’d like to mention all the technical crew who helped bring the piece to life, there are over twenty-five of them so they’ll have to remain anonymous heroes!

Vixen is one of the best things I’ve seen for ages. Everything is perfect and you leave the space energised and enervated by what you’ve seen and by the people you’ve seen performing it. It’s great entertainment with some important messages underpinning it.

Even if you’ve never seen an opera because you don’t think you’d like it, take a chance and get down to The Vaults before Vixen closes on June 10th. This is not like a normal opera – this is something very special and is accessible to all.

5 Star Rating

Review by Alan Fitter

Put your headphones on, follow the girl and experience an innovative and highly original take on an epic opera…
Silent Opera – featuring live singers and musicians mixed with a pre-recorded orchestra delivered directly into individual headsets – is opera as you’ve never experienced it before. This is thrilling opera delivering stunning musical drama right into your ears and hearts. This is opera for the next generation.

Silent Opera presents Vixen
based on Leoš Janáček’s
The Cunning Little Vixen

Friday 26 May to Saturday 10 June
Press night: Wednesday 31 May at 8.00pm*
Tuesday to Saturday at 8.00pm *
Saturday at 3.00pm*
*Please note: audiences must arrive 30 minutes early to collect headphones


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