Peter Grimes ★★★★★ London Coliseum | Sep 21 - Oct 11, 2023

Caught between the harshness of nature and the hypocrisy of a society that closes its doors to him, Peter Grimes is isolated and brutalised in a way that leads to his tragic end. Benjamin Britten's interpretation of George Crabbe's poem, The Borough, is a very dark picture of the human condition, indeed, and it is reinforced by the brilliantly stark sets of Paul Steinberg and drably evocative costuming of Brigitte Reiffenstuel. Director David Alden manages to make the sense of oppression and grim menace palpable, capturing the repetitive and joyless nature of both work and recreation in this dismal reality. Both musically and dramatically, Gwyn Hughes Jones does an amazing job of capturing the animality and humanity of the title character. The audience shares his frustration and aspiration in the wonderfully rendered "Now the Great Bear and Pleiades" and is horror-struck by his mad scene. In her interpretation of the "Embroidery Aria" Elizabeth Llewellyn, as Ellen Orford, does an equally splendid job of projecting sympathy, confusion and shock as she confronts Grimes' abusive behaviour. Their environment may be austere to the point of bleak, but these are not simple people, and Jones and Llewellyn are notably successful in bringing out the nuanced reality of their characters. They are supported by a strong cast and a formidable chorus. We were particularly taken by Christine Rice's Auntie and Simon Bailey's Captain Balstrode. Peter Grimes always makes for haunting, unforgettable theatre, but this production from the ENO is definitive.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image © Tom Bowle

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