Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Battles Within and Without Review

Re:SoundTheatre Company presents
Battles Within and Without
RNCM Studio Theatre, Manchester, Friday 11th March 2012, 9pm showing

Pairing selections from Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals with a dramatised production of Judith Weir’s choral work missa del cid was an unusual starting point. Added into the mix were sections of video footage by Albino Mosquito that linked the madrigals together then formed the transition from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. It could have really not worked at all. The smart staging and exceptional vocal performances ensured that it did.

The first half of the show featured the Monteverdi and video interludes. Highlights included the superbly hammed up and passionate male trio and the larger vocal ensemble pieces, making full use of the ten wooden boxes that served as the only staging and most of the props. The standout moment was the lamento, sung exquisitely by co-director Rebecca Lea despite no small amount of physical effort diverted to the fluid, pained physicality of the dramatisation.

The accompaniment was a motley collection of instruments played by the off duty vocalists during each song. This was an impressive feat and it worked superbly during the same company’s production of Into the Woods in the same venue, but here the high standard of production values in every other aspect of the show left the band sounding a little ropey at times.

The video interludes were immaculately produced, especially the interweaving of vocals in the audio track but I ultimately found them an unwelcome aside to the progress through the madrigals. The audio itself being the main cause of disjoint – it featured overlapped isolated phrases clearly linked to the action but unhelpfully static in context.

The second half of the production was where the expertise of Re:sound was best displayed. Here most of the cast were involved most of the time - this allowed for staging effects to become a regular feature, creating many remarkable visual vignettes. The spectacle of the angel Gabriel appearing in Cid’s dream was especially well imagined and executed.

Alongside this, the ensemble were singing a twenty five minute a capella choral work of tangible difficulty from memory, only partially conducted from up in the wings. It was a stunning achievement. The standard of musicianship hardly wavered throughout with all vocalists distinguishing themselves.

I saw the second of two stagings in the same evening and would have wished to share the experience with a healthier audience. Re:Sound are performing carefully considered, engaging repertoire to an exceptional standard and deserve a far larger platform.


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