La Bohème ★★★★★ King's Head Theatre | Apr 26 - May 28, 2022

Lovers of Puccini's classic opera and those unfamiliar with the work will both find lots to like in this very clever recontextualising of the story. This pared down version cuts some of the characters from the original and introduces a contemporary twist with Robin (Daniel Koek) falling in love with Mimi, also known as Lucas (Philip Lee). Both do quite splendid jobs as the doomed lovers, and we were surprised at how well the duets worked with two male voices. Koek's version of "Che gelida manina" and Lee's "Mi chiamano Mimì" were absolutely delightful. These familiar arias also worked very well in their new English translation, and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the updated libretto. As originally conceived by David Eaton and Adam Spreadbury-Maher and reworked by Philip Lee and David Eaton, there is a puckish humour in this telling of the story that perfectly offsets the tale of ill-fated passion. Matt Kellett as Marcus and Grace Nyandoro as Marissa both capitalised on that humour in this production, and Kellett is simply perfect as the besotted best friend who is captivated by his coquettish counterpart. Nyandoro's rendition of "Musetta's Waltz" was utterly charming and huge kudos to David Eaton for his musical direction. The adaptation of this opera so that it works in a small space with only piano accompaniment is no small feat. One small quibble for us, was the decision to dress the cast in scrubs and have the dominant set as a hospital reception area. It seemed somewhat distracting as most of the action does not occur there. A sparser set that left more to the audience's imagination might would have worked better. Still, this is quite a captivating evening that lets the audience savour Puccini's glorious music in a witty and thoughtful reimagining.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by @thebrittainphotography

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