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The Telephone and the Medium

Not your usual opera adaptation of Gian Carlo Menotti’s delightful double-bill.


If you’ve never been to the opera before and you’d like to (don’t deny it, you want to indulge in a bit of culture and premature aging really), this little feast is a perfect place to dip your toes. Forget the expectations of sitting high on top of a grand balcony looking down through mini-binoculars at an obese Viking throwback struggling to fit in a corset as she screams at a part-time Pavarotti – The King’s Head Theatre is a lovely intimate venue in Islington where the stage is mere centimetres away from the audience.

It’s produced by Open Door Opera, a theatre company with a conviction that opera can and should be enjoyed by everyone, so their efforts to quash operatic stereotypes and bring it to the masses show highly here. In the first of the two pieces, The Telephone, Ben is desperately trying to tell Lucy something but keeps getting interrupted by her telephone, so he attempts to solve the situation the best way he can. The simple comedy premise makes you wonder how long it would take for all the singing to become tiresome, but the consistent laughs, the fantastic performances of the two leads, and the company’s unique modern-day twist on the piece make it incredibly refreshing, enjoyable, and short but sweet.

With a twenty-five minute interval between the two pieces, which together come to a combined length of an hour and ten minutes, the overall performance moves at a great fast pace. What’s convenient about the venue is that it’s London’s first pub theatre since Shakespeare’s time, so you can fill up the interval by filling up your trough. What appears to be a buzzing vintage saloon bar in trendy Angel coolly has a seemingly secret gem of a world at the back.

One of Menotti’s more popular pieces, The Medium is much more sinister than the Telephone, but is still rich with comic moments. Madame Flora is a fraudulent clairvoyant (if you’ve ever wanted to see an opera-singing chav, Catherine Carter plays it brilliantly) who descends into madness when she unintentionally makes chilling contact with the dead. As she tries to come clean to her clients, her abuse towards her adoptive son Toby (played wonderfully by the talented and exceptionally cute Daniel Ash) intensifies, and all the while he’s falling for his sister – it’s all going on. There were mere moments where it felt like it dragged, but overall it was a powerful combo of shocks and thrills, which made both pieces contrast in style.

4/5

The Telephone and the Medium is playing tonight at King’s Head Theatre, (25 August) and on Saturday (27 August)

Photo: Cherry Potts
Words: Sam Reynolds

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