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Tosca, Kings Head Theatre, review: ‘Stirring, immersive and impressive’

PUBLISHED: 10:51 04 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:56 05 October 2017

Tosca at the King's Head. Picture: Nick Rutter

Tosca at the King's Head. Picture: Nick Rutter

© Nick Rutter

Heralding the final opera at the venerable and iconic Islington venue, the King’s Head, is a classic for the ages.

With a new English version adapted by Becca Marriott and Adam Spreadbury-Maher, this iteration of Puccini’s celebrated Tosca is one relocated to Nazi occupied France in 1944.

The themes survive the migration of time and place, with the facets of torture, jealousy and betrayal reverberating effectively.

The play focuses on the fortunes of Tosca (Becca Mariott) and her beau Marius (Roger Paterson). Marius comes to the aid of his fugitive friend Jacob (Tom Isherwood), who has escaped the clutches of the Gestapo. Tosca, unaware of Marius’s pledge to his old friend, succumbs to the wily plan of Nazi authoritarian Scarpia (Michael Georgiou), who sows the seed in her mind that Marius is being unfaithful. Urged to confront Marius, Scarpia sends a subordinate to follow the vexed mistress so that he will be the beneficiary when she tracks down Marius and the errant man.

In relaying the famous score, the musicians kick up a sonorous storm. Thankfully, they are ably matched by a set of performances that etch the cadences of the arias with aplomb. The fact that they manage to meld their beautiful pipes with the frisson of chemistry that is undeniably present is a joy to behold too. Especially in the cosy confines of this venue and the opportunity that such an intimate space affords, where the audience can peer into the whites of the performers’ eyes. It leaves the cast with nowhere to hide, and it makes their success all the more stirring, immersive and impressive.

As a libretto, it is arguable that Tosca is more a success of plot mechanics rather than any true poetic import, but it is armed with a blistering denouement. In fact, it is a conclusion that offers a complimentary reflection on the preceding two acts. Whilst this production might be constrained by the source’s shortcomings, it also provides ample justice to the opera’s greatest strengths. In the process, it manages to punch well above its fringe theatre weight class.

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