Theatre Review: Troy Boy

The Merry Opera Company stage a spicy modern version of Offenbach’s TROY BOY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, to attract a wider audience to opera. But does the production hit a high note?

Offenbach may not be everyone’s favourite operatic composer, his scores can be repetitive and drawn out, but they do contain some beautiful and challenging music.

The Merry Opera Company aims to make such opera more accessible by modernising and injecting humour. With a spicy new translation by Kit Hesketh-Harvey and present day settings, their newest production attempts to bring music lovers all the singing without the stuffy atmosphere.

The libretto however, though funny at times, is also littered with terrible puns and Ali-G type characters which give the impression of dumbing-down rather than updating. The audience is not snobbish, but nor is it stupid.

The costumes are fun and the Greek restaurant setting plausible but Hesketh-Harvey’s stage direction doesn’t have the desired effect either. Overly complicated scenes leave the singers preoccupied with choreography, leading to a constant dragging of the tempo in ensemble pieces, despite the musical director’s best efforts.

It is always difficult to gage the volume that singers can go to in such small spaces - no one wants to be deafened but neither should the singers be overpowered by the tiny band.

Rosalind Coad gives a fine performance as Helen, though perhaps didn’t show her true capability until the last act, and a sonorous Marcin Gesla must be highly commended for the fun and forceful voice of Agamemnon.

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Overall, Troy Boy’s ideals have great potential but are not executed in a balanced performance.

* Showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate Village, Highgate, until Saturday, March 5.