Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review The Marriage Of Kim K

The attractive concept of a reality TV musical and Mozart opera mash-up is marred by technical sound issues, finds Peter Barker.

The Marriage Of Kim K
Music: Stephen Hyde
Words: Leo Mercer

Spouses Settling The Score 

The timeless themes of love and relationships underpin this musical riff on reality television's "famous for being famous" Kim Kardashian's brief marriage to a basketball star.

The Marriage of Kim K is a clever attempt to fuse old and new - Kardashian's nuptials with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's and Lorenzo da Ponte's The Marriage of Figaro.

It's a marvellous idea with new compositions from composer Stephen Hyde, who also directs and stars, and lyrics and book from Leo Mercer. A flippant tale of celebrity culture plays alongside the Count and Countess Almaviva in the eighteenth century opera.

We follow the lives of three couples in three different, yet linked, domestic situations characterised by three different musical styles. The couple on a sofa in New York, the celebrity couple in Los Angeles and the Count and Countess in Spain.

The design by Anthony Newton divides the stage into three - the metropolitan apartment of the New York couple, the Kardashian and Humphries media blitz in Los Angeles and the Seville of the original Mozart opera.  

This set enables the action to go to and fro and run in parallel, kicked off by the different priorities of couple lawyer Amelia and composer Stephen - she is hooked by Kim's appearances on TV, he's untouched by celebrity culture and wants to listen to Mozart.

Meanwhile Kim Kardashian (Yasemin Gulumser) and sportsman Kris Humphries (James Edge)  have a tempestuous time in their private lives, publicly expressed on social media. Back in Spain, Count and Countess Almaviva  are similarly having a bit of a barney.

However the major problem of the evening (and it is a very big and unavoidable problem) was an extremely dodgy sound system, the microphoning making unintelligible much of the story and the satire of The Marriage of Kim K.

This was very frustrating, especially as iy appears to be a show full of invention directed by Stephen Hyde who, also merging life and reality, takes the part of composer Stephen with his real-life partner as his wife Amelia who also happens to be called Amelia Gabriel.

The real Stephen also has composed the music, a mixture of classical, pop and electronic,  played by a band of cello, violin, viola, percussion and keyboards.

The Marriage of Kim K is part of the Grimeborn opera season at the Arcola Theatre but the majority of the cast are from musical theatre who don't emerge well from the sound problems.

Emily Burnett as the Countess stands out among the singers. However it is noticeable she and Nathan Bellis as the Count are the strongest performers -  and the only trained  opera singers amongst the cast.

In true opera buffa style, the audience thrills at the wild swings of emotions and a satisfyingly neat and emotionally fulfilling conclusion. There was enough energy to intrigue me at times, but the overwhelming sense was of unfulfilled potential.

Even though it's a good idea and the second act was an improvement on the first, the technical blunders make it a red/amber light. 

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