Theatre Review: Manifest Destiny 2011 at the King’s Head

America’s role in the 9/11 attacks is under the spotlight in this reworking of an operatic hit.

Opportunistically timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Manifest Destiny 2011 is a revival and slight reworking of Keith Burnstein’s operatic hit from the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Burnstein’s score is surprisingly pleasant and generally well-played by a quartet of a cello, viola, clarinet and violin.

The singing is generally better than you’d expect for an opera in a pub and credit must go to the cast for working hard to make the most of their somewhat one-dimensional characters.

Being able to see the glee in the eyes of Tom Kennedy in the role of the warmongering CIA director as he threatens to “kick Arabian ass” is one of the benefits of such a tiny venue.


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Unfortunately, the production has not aged well.

The story is overly simplistic and falls far short of its billing as an “explosive new opera [that] examines America’s culpability for the horrific attacks”.

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Don’t go expecting to be challenged in any way.

That said, the tickets are cheap and the production runs for less than 100 minutes including an interval. If you are willing to look beyond the narrative nonsense, those with an open mind and an appetite for something a little different might find it an enjoyable distraction.

Opera Up Close should be applauded for its work at the King’s Head over the last couple of years. Many of its productions have deservedly won plaudits from both audiences and critics but Manifest Destiny 2011 fails to live up to its promise.

* Manifest Destiny 2011 is running at the King’s Head Theatre, in Upper Street, N1, until Monday, September 26, with further dates still to be confirmed.

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