22 March 2016
Reviewed by Angela Paull
Last night I went to see The Barber of Seville, by the Welsh National Opera, at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The theatre is in the heart of the city and surrounded by several car parks. I always park in Grosvenor Square, where there is a flat fee of £2 between 6pm and midnight. The car park was exceptionally busy – always a sign that a popular show is being staged!
The Barber of Seville is the first of a trilogy of performances, over three nights, by The WNO and is being followed by The Marriage of Figaro and Figaro Gets a Divorce. The “Figaro Forever” programme covers all three performances and is of novel-esque proportions, well worth a buy as there is lots of interesting information contained within.
The performance is fairly long, at about 2 hours and 50 minutes, and started with a shadowy synchronised scissor dance – giving an early sense of the humour to follow.
In essence this is the tale of Count Almaviva who is determined to win the love of Rosina. She is currently held captive by Dr Bartolo who intends to marry her himself and benefit from her dowry. Enter the Barber – the general Mr Fix It of Seville whose influence extends well beyond cutting hair. He concocts a plan, involving a variety of alter egos for the count, to help him win his heart’s desire.
The eponymous barber is played brilliantly by Nicholas Lester who effortlessly sung so quickly at times it was amazing that his tongue didn’t trip over the lyrics. Rosina floats around in a peignoir and basque for most of the first act, giving the impression of a lady of the night rather than a wealthy heiress, but Claire Booth plays her with great humour and equally great voice. Nice Darmanin, as the Count, shines throughout as he negotiates his way between lovelorn suitor, a boy scout-esque soldier and music tutor in his quest to win Rosina’s affections.
There are some super slapstick moments throughout the performance and perhaps no more so than the scene between Rosina and Dr Bartolo involving a very large syringe. Andrew Stone plays the Dr with just the right balance of buffoon and “evil” captor and I did feel a degree of sympathy for the character. The scenes where he is plotting with Richard Wiegold’s excellent Basilio are perhaps stolen by the latter’s very amusing guide dog.
This review wouldn’t be complete without mention of the costumes – from Figaro’s shiny red trousers to Rosina’s 80’s style wedding dress – they were full of colour and humour and really added to the production. The simple staging was also the perfect backdrop to allow the performers to shine.
All in all a really entertaining performance, full of comedy and which wasn’t afraid to poke fun of itself at times. The Welsh are renowned for being a nation of fine voice and The WNO showed this off with aplomb.
Well worth a look.
For other shows at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton visit www.mayflower.org.uk.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811