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La Bohème, King’s Head Theatre, review: ‘laugh out loud moments and misty eyed sentimentality’

08:00 23 September 2016

La Boheme at the Kings Head. Picture: Andreas Grieger

La Boheme at the Kings Head. Picture: Andreas Grieger

by Andreas Grieger - www.eventphotography-london.co.uk

Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Becca Marriott have re-imagined Pucinni’s opera, moving from the Paris Latin Quarter of the 1840s to the 2016 Dalston quarter

It was with a tad of trepidation that I trotted off to Upper Street for this new production of La Bohème.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Becca Marriott have re-imagined Pucinni’s 1895 opera with a new libretto, transposing the action from the Paris Latin Quarter of the 1840s to the 2016 Dalston quarter of Hackney and distilling the cast to four members (plus bloke in the audience).

Transplants do not always take but, when they do, they can offer a new lease of life – this production has done just that.

It’s Christmas and Mark (an artist who paints on an iPad) and playwright Ralph share a rundown flat. They are members of the Precariat with no

regular income but plenty of frequent bills: the boiler is broken, rent unpaid and they use their window as a back door to avoid the attentions of their landlord.

Mimi taps on the door in need of a light. Ralph (“she’s bloody gorgeous”) swings into Operation Charm and, what has been a pretty grungy prelude progresses into a beautiful love duet. Che Gelida Manina becomes What a Cold Little Hand, and we start an emotional rollercoaster of love found, love stumbling, re-found and finally lost.

All the members of the cast (brilliantly and idiosyncratically accompanied by pianist Panaretos Kyriatzidis and cellist Alison Holford) sang beautifully and delivered performances that any actor would be proud of. In the first two acts engagement with the audience, especially bloke in seat A9, was amazing, evoking laugh out loud moments and misty eyed sentimentality

But it was Becca Marriott’s performance as Mimi that really grabbed the show. She was at once vulnerable, lovable and abhorrent: a substance abuser, a street beggar selling her body but also abusing her relationships with those who love her. In the final, tragic scene people were close to tears.

A knowing, witty and clever reinterpretation, this older and knowledgeable audience showed their appreciation with a long standing ovation.

A must see.

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