19 Feb

at the King’s Head
by Mary Franklin and Ashley Pearson

The music of Bizets Carmen must be the most well known music on the planet – and here it is, in different guise, at the Kings Head. Just a piano pla yer and a whole new libretto, in English, beginning in an NHS hospital with Carmen as a cleaner and Jose as a male nurse.
Roger Paterson as Jose is a beleaguered married man. He is unhappy and bored in his work as he sings ‘Everyone just passes through. How did I end up here.’ His wife keeps calling him on his mobile phone, his mother is ill Just anothe sick person in his life. The Doctors keep on calling him to do things for them, but eventually, he gets some time off.
Eventually he gets time off to go into the Smoking Room. Offstage chorus of smokers, there is masses of smoke curling around both sides of the stage..
Carmen (Ellie Edmonds) comes in carrying something. a white parcel, which she tries to conceal. She tells Jose she has disposed of her boyfriend.. She sings about just wanting a happy life with fun and excitement and flirts with Jose.
There is an alarm Attention, red alert. Drugs have been stolen. Jose suspects Carmen he finds the drugs on her, he takes them from her and allow her to escape He is caught with the drugs on him.
When he is allowed out on bail, he seeks out Carmen, but has already found a new beau – the football hero Escamillo (Dan D’Souza)
The opera is playout with only three characters and a piano. Some of the music is on recordings that are played into the story.
There is a lot of comedy played into the story, Mary Franklin has done so many comey prioductions like The Diaryof a Nobody and The Young Visitors. Comedy is definitely her thing and she can find jokes – for example like the way they bring ‘Toreador’ into the story.
It is an ingenious version of the story and fits the music perfectly.
The sets are simple – by Anna Lewis – with the last act using a gauze to show the action during the playing of the football match on sound.
Juliane Gallant plays the piano throughout – not an easy task, as the whole thing is performed by just the three major performers and there is not a moment to relax during the show.
The singing of course is stunning, but one cannot be sure of getting the same singers who are superb as Carmen and Jose. The roles are shared with a second cast.
Enjoyable and funny without taking away from the original music and the story.

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