The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Arcola Theatre 21 August


That's his sister's white dress she nicked...

A couple of blokes came out dressed in white shirts and waistcoats.  One sat at the piano and started to play hesitantly.  The other encouraged him by (among other things) humming, tapping his pencil on his notebook, performing dance steps until the music got too fast, and getting the audience to clap in time.

Then that came to an end and it became clear that the guy who was not the pianist was the tenor and he was going to sing The Diary of One Who Disappeared, which is somewhere between a song-cycle and a very small oratorio and recounts how the hero is led astray by a gypsy girl and leaves his family to unite his fate with hers.

I found to my relief that I could understand almost all of the words (it was sung in English; texts were not provided).  The pianist played the very plinky piano–was it meant to resemble some folk instrument?–and a rather blonde gypsy slinked her way across the stage.  Nice to know that the Moravian countryside enjoys reliable supplies of peroxide.  Three women stood up from the front row to form the chorus.

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I was moved by the tenor’s final declamation, though overall  I thought the staging betrayed nervousness that the piece wouldn’t stand on its own merits.  Perhaps that it just wasn’t long enough–50 minutes overall is a bit of a strange length for an evening’s entertainment.  The soprano (Mary Bevan) had an easier time of it than the tenor (Robert Murray), perhaps because she had something a lot more singable to sing.

I’m not sure why the text’s indications of the gypsy girl dropping her blouse and sleeping in a rumpled shift led to the tenor removing his waistcoat and cufflinks.

And so ended my first visit to a Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola!


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