Thursday, July 18

The Marriage of Figaro – Waterside Arts, Sale

Mozart’s satirical and deeply human four-act comic opera, an adaptation with Da Ponte of Beaumarchais’ banned 1778 play about warring masters and servants, is delightfully brought to life with Chris Gill’s English libretto translation entertainingly directed by Sarah Helsby-Hughes.

As the day of Figaro (David Cane) and Susanna’s (Heather Buckmaster) wedding arrives, it becomes clear that the Count (Mike Dewis), is keen to exercise his ‘droit du seigneur’ – his right to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – and they conspire with the forsaken Countess (Helsby-Hughes), to outwit her husband and teach him a lesson in fidelity. Plans however are thrown awry when Bartolo (Matthew Baldwin), seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his own earlier plans to marry the Countess, tries to force Figaro to marry Marcellina (Imogen Garner), a woman old enough to be his mother, much to the amusement of Basilio (Joseph Buckmaster). As if things couldn’t get any worse, the amorous teenager Cherubino (Serenna Wagner) pitches up infatuated by anything in a skirt, followed by the young Barbarina (Rachael Hughes) who is equally infatuated with him. Throw in a drunken gardener (Baldwin), Don Curzio (Joseph Buckmaster), a dancer (Annie Howarth-Jones), and a couple of bridesmaids (Rosa Sparks; Nia Edwards).and what follows is a myriad of twists and turns as deception counters scheming and misunderstandings foil conspiracies as the hilarious plot delightfully unravels.

James Gillett provided live piano accompaniment, performed flawlessly throughout, orchestrated with the on-stage action by Gill whose wonderful translation from the original maintains the full lyrical quality of the piece whilst capturing the essence of the modern English language and some superb rhyme. A further layer was added with Ravi Nathwani’s guitar providing a sublime Spanish effect to a number of arias and the incorporation of a flamenco routine, choreographed and led by Howarth-Jones, was inspired.

Photo: Mark Davoren

The staging was sublime with Andrew Norton’s lighting design effortlessly reflecting the mood on-stage as we moved between and within scenes and in which the cleverly chosen props were seamlessly transformed in the capable hands of Stage Manager Mark Rawlinson, with the wardrobe just one example of how much can be achieved with so little.

All the cast performed strongly with good harmonies matched by the wonderful chemistry between the players which is so vital for this fast-paced drama that unfolded to some superb comic timing.

I can’t single anyone out, but each deserves a mention, from Cane’s cheekily comic Figaro through to Dewis’ superbly sleazy Count, whilst Helsby-Hughes dignified Countess and Garner’s imperious Marcellina were much in contrast to the energy and exuberance of Wagner’s Cherubino and Hughes’ boisterous Barbarina. With dual roles, Joseph Buckmaster’s ultra-smooth Basilio was equalled by his conniving Don Curzio, whilst Baldwin’s smug Bartolo was delightfully offset by his nonplussed Antonio.

The success of Mozart’s divine comedy ultimately comes down to its Susanna and with Heather Buckmaster in perfect voice and handling with apparent ease the many demands of the role, balancing emotion and performance with lovely comic touches, this was never in any doubt: this is one of the best performed Figaro’s I have seen and undoubtedly one of the funniest.

Flat Pack Music is a North-West England music charity focused on providing a positive change in the perception of and engagement with music and the performing arts. Further details including their upcoming productions can be found at https://www.flatpackmusic.co.uk/

Waterside is a thriving and vibrant arts venue in the heart of Sale in Trafford. Comprising a theatre, art galleries, studios and workspaces, the centre is an important regional hub for both performance and visual art. Further details https://watersidearts.org/

This production was dedicated to the memory of Audrey Binch, a great supporter of Flat Pack Music.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 14th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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