HANNAH Noone’s production of The Elixir Of Love is a riotous cocktail of fun. Some 95 minutes of snap, crackle and pop.
Based on Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (1832), and given a fresh lick of witty paint by writers Chris Harris and David Eaton, the opera is engaging and entertaining from start to finish.
Transported to Barry Island, just before Margaret Thatcher ordered a task force of warships and merchant ships to sail forth in response to Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, the opera is framed around the love triangle formed by Adina (Alys Roberts), Nicky (David Powton) and Brandon (Themba Mvula). Outside the triangle sits Gina (Caroline Taylor), never short of an opinion or three.
Who will Adina, manager of a local café, choose to be her partner in life? Steady Eddie Nicky who spends most of his time sipping coffee in her establishment, contemplating how he can win her over? Or the swaggering, flirtatious and arrogant naval captain Brandon – a former teenage lover of Adina’s? ‘No man can compare to me,’ boasts Brandon. ‘What a dick,’ retorts Nicky in a derogatory tone. Boy does Brandon think he is hot stuff.
It seems that Brandon, armed with a ring and good looks, will win the battle for Adina’s heart, but into the Welsh fray steps potions ‘expert’ Doctor Dulcamara (a magnificent Matthew Kellett). Dulcamara could sell ice to the eskimos and has potions for every situation. If you want to walk like Mick Jagger, he says, there is a potion in his briefcase that will make it happen.
With his slick backed hair, he seizes on Nicky’s insecurities and gives him a potion (the elixir of love) that will transform him into an irresistible human being within 24 hours. Pheromones from beavers, no less. Indeed, Dulcamara gives him a number of potions. Who will win Adina’s heart? Rambo Brandon, a mix of charm and outright aggression, or potion intoxicated Nicky who comes with a nice line in jumpers that only a grandmother would have knitted?
All splendid stuff, held together superbly by musical director David Eaton on a piano that has seen better times. The singing is more than good (Powton, in particular) – a feather in the cap for Noone’s Opera’r Ddraig, a not-for-profit organisation that nurtures young opera enthusiasts.
The King’ Head Theatre has a fine tradition of making opera accessible. The Elixir Of Love carries this on in sensational style. Refreshing, funny and hugely watchable. More please. Potent fringe opera.
Title image by Bill Knight