London Handel Festival
Conductor: Laurence Cummings
Designer: Molly Einchcomb
Lighting: Rob Casey
Choreographer: Ewan Jones
Photographer: Chris Christodoulou
**** The Arts Desk
"A darkly intense production of Handel's almost tragedy. James Bonas’s production is a moody affair, distilling Handel’s Scottish setting down to its emotional essentials...Dark browns, blues and blacks, all flecked with mud, give this tented space an edge, and even the trees are fragmented – amputated boughs suspended gracefully in the air.
The cast, decked out in what looks like the entire A/W 15/16 Brora collection, are all dreadlocks and natural fibres – a royal court turned rogue pack of live-by-their-wits adventurers. It’s a context – on the edge of life and death – that makes some sense of the extremity of a plot that condemns its heroine to death for a single supposed transgression, and climaxes in a bloody duel."
**** Opera Britannia
" The costumes in Ariodante owed a lot to Mad Max – British grunge if you will. (If it was good enough to win Britain an Oscar, don’t knock it.) One much-used device of this production (directed by James Bonas and designed by Molly Einchcomb) which was highly effective was the drawing of three or four hemp curtains, to effect scene changes and sometimes to provide a glimpse as if through a window of one of the key protagonists engaged in a typical domestic task such as washing or sword sharpening. The choreography (Ewen Jones)...was beautfully co-ordinated and the fight scene worked particularly well when it was between two male singers. The lighting too deserves a special mention (Rob Casey) as it conveyed a sort of medieval gloom indoors and starry or snowy nights outside. The use of water ripples as a backdrop behind Ariodante was particularly effective."
**** Planet Hugill
"Handel meets game of thrones in superbly confident and emotionally strong performance - Bonas and Einchcomb seem to have chosen A Game of Thrones as their inspiration; a neo-medieval society, all homespun fabrics, coarse knitting and furs. The set consisted of a system of screens and curtains moved by supers, which allowed for quick changes of scene. Using video too, designer Molly Einchcomb created some magical scenes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this performance was that the time just flew by, so engrossed were we in Handel's drama."
"The story is set in Scotland...director James Bonas seemed to travel even further north: there was an Icelandic vibe to the dim hues of cool blue, dull grey and grungy brown of the set and costumes — a monochrome palette and barren ruggedness which reminded me of the violent setting of Orson Welles’ Macbeth....The arias themselves were not encumbered by excessive direction; the singers were encouraged to use the music to communicate rather than indulge in superfluous gesture. The result was directness and a pleasing lack of fussiness."
"Ariodante is still the usual dog’s dinner of mixed-up love affairs, disguises and mistaken identities. James Bonas’s production...does avoid some of the usual clichés....Molly Einchcomb’s designs are effective and individual — spare nocturnal landscapes, a blasted tree, a rippling ocean. Handel’s original staging made a special feature of dance sequences, but wisely there is no dancing here. Laurence Cummings and the London Handel Orchestra brought Ariodante to life with vitality and emotional depth."
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