Review: MTW - The Devil Inside @ Sherman Cymru
It's pleasing to see the development of Music Theatre Wales over last few years, even if they have been going for a few decades. Their championing of new opera is what makes me frequently excited, but can occasionally leave me in a bit of a whizz.
Loosely based on The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, this opera tackles the themes of greed and the fatal nature of your true desires. Stuart MacRae has created a score which never attempts to verge on a tune like structure and feels much more at home in standard atonality and a general sense of unease.
The libretto by Louise Welsh has a few moments of insight, yet it never feels masterful in its undertaking. The short story by Stevenson, should obviously be translated into a short opera. Here the work is little driven on the plot and is much more interested in the characters and their relationships with the bottle.
Ben McAteer plays James, who acquires the magic bottle for the most part of the show. He is not the most captivating lead here, though his signing voice is fine and better suited elsewhere. As his good friend Nicholas Sharratt as Richard, is a dashing presence, driven mad by his obsession with the bottle.
Since aquiring the bottle and his frequent selling of it, he gives it to James at a lower price (the plot only allows the bottle to be sold for a smaller price than that person had paid for it). Steven Page is a brief delight as the Old Man who, sells the two the imp and latter playing a Vagrant who is keen to acquire it, fully aware of its terrible consequences. Rachel Kelly's role of Catherine is filler, though she does has the worry of giving birth to a devil child, due to all the magic going around.
The set is typically simple, though some brief shadow puppetry did delight us. A Rorschach test inkblot of the imp was stained on a mattress and lingered over some scenes, as the grip of the fantastical character was tightening. We never see the imp, but only the constant flickering of it, in its green bottle. All good opera is about the music first and the rest comes later.
The music here is unpleasant and can't even be enjoyed in a typically masochistic way you can find with most contemporary music. The vocal line is stale and nothing new, never attempting to impress the listener with what the singers can do.
A large let down.
Rating: 2 stars
The Devil Inside continues on its UK tour, then to Canada.
- Review: Music Theatre Wales - The Trial @ Sherman Cymru
- Review: Music Theatre Wales - The Killing Flower @ WMC
- Review: Music Theatre Wales - Greek @ WMC