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Review: The Elixir of Love at King's Head Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:24 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:24 04 October 2019

Alys Roberts and Themba Mvula in The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Islington picture Bill Knight

Alys Roberts and Themba Mvula in The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Islington picture Bill Knight

Bill Knight

Welsh company Opera D'draig transposes Donizetti's comic opera to 1980s Barry Island to beautiful bawdy and hilarious effect

Alys Roberts and Themba Mvula in The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Islington picture: Bill KnightAlys Roberts and Themba Mvula in The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Islington picture: Bill Knight

Hysterically funny, beautiful and bawdy - it's the comic opera L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti (born in1797) that brings joy over two centuries later to audiences at the King's Head Theatre. A tonic in these times of Brexit.

In a new English version by Chris Harris and David Eaton, The Elixir of Love seamlessly transposes the action to the Italian immigrant community in the Welsh seaside town of Barry Island - famed as one of the settings of TV's Gavin & Stacey.

Acclaimed Welsh opera company Opera D'draig is the perfect choice for bringing Barry to life: everything is sung, there is no spoken dialogue and the language is suitably salty and exuberant.

From the very entrance to the auditorium we feel part of the community in the hustle and bustle of a working class seaside resort; posters proclaim the attractions of Barry and ice cream vendors are enthusiastically reciting their choice of flavours.

The date is 1982. As the Falklands war gains momentum and Thatcherism ravages the UK, can lovelorn poet Nicky win the affections of the charismatic Adina?

Alys Roberts is an adorable porcelain doll-like Adina, but what an astonishing voice issues from that size 0 frame!.

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Dulcamara is the moustachioed villain, the seller of snake oil, played brilliantly by baritone Matthew Kellett.

Not only his singing, but also his body language is masterly.

His baggy shorts are worn with a suit jacket in an attempt to lend him gravitas as a "Doctor".

When Adina's old boyfriend at school Brandon (handsome Themba Mvula in the role) arrives on shore leave from the navy, Nicky needs an infallible potion and Dulcamara sells him the elixir of love.

There is no shortage of drama in this show: a love triangle, misunderstandings and betrayal; thrills and spills aplenty.

And lots of comedy. Hannah Noone, Artistic Director of Opera' Ddraig, who is a former Trainee Resident Director at the King's Head Theatre, directs with verve and great panache. The sets and costumes by Amanda Mascarenhas are well-thought and very effective.

An enchanting 100 minutes of fun and great singing. Go see!

5/5

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