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The Barbican Centre, London

There is nothing classical about this production of Mozart Undone apart from hints of variations on themes from Mozart’s operas Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro and probably Greek mythology to string together a narrative.

Instruments played – drums, guitar, cello, violin, mandolin, bass and double bass and vocal sounds. Music and sounds ranging from operatic to soft rock, soul, folk, country, cabaret, bluegrass with added whistle, chirrup, growl and cough, lots of coughing at the outset.

There is water, lots of it, cascading from the ceiling above the stage. It started with a trickle, manageable and could be contained in a cup placed immediately underneath. It takes a song or two to escalate to a gush of water where a bucket needs to be replaced by a larger washing-bucket, then a torrent of water.  A bathtub is needed to retain it, and yet it proves insufficient.

The water and the rush to contain it with the different vessels begin as curious but goes on to seem tedious: it ends up being intriguing. The introduction and use of the bathtub on stage is rather clever.  The sexual innuendoes are rapidly replaced by sexual gestures with a touch of vulgarity. I guess it is Don Giovanni without finesse.

It is not really clear what the water has to do with Mozart’s music. However, it provokes one to think.  I guess there is no one reason for it, otherwise why have so much water throughout the show?  It is a befitting backdrop to the exploration of social and sexual brutality. It also runs through the production as a core theme of global warming or possibly reflecting the floods we are experiencing in the UK and in Europe.

Water aside, a great deal more is happening on the wet stage – the group sings 28 songs, variation on Mozart’s compositions – opening with Curious, a variation on his Requiem in D minor, and later on Call to Arms, a variation on a movement in Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor.

The word VARIATIONS is crucial, as some of the keys in which some of the pieces were written were modified and of course it was not actually Mozart, though one could hear some of the familiar notes.

The singing varies from good to very good and so does the acting.

This ‘Theatre Concert’ may be akin to post-impressionism in art. It combines operatic singing with pop singing, almost like having to mix eating with your fingers and cutlery.

The set seems chaotic, but that complements the story the group tries to convey. There is no one theme or a single narration in the tale, but bits are pulled together and tied to ecological and social issues.

The musical score was composed by the Danish brothers Jens and Peter Hellemann and the lyrics were written by the talented Neill Cardinal Furio. The trio apply very thick layers of new notes creating a new cocktail. A cocktail in which apple juice and large dollop of lemon juice are added. You either love it or hate it.

Nikolaj Cedarholm’s direction is imaginative though the narrative meandered to encompass a wide range of current social and political themes and at some points feels tired and tiresome.

The execution of the musical score maintains the tension and complements the exquisite performance. The fusion of actors performing themes of sexual attraction, brutality, affection and selfishness, while singing and playing instruments, make this production unlike any other I have seen.

The costumes complement the themes of regression that runs through the scenes.  The characters appear initially in modern day dress followed by donning rococo costumes including  toupees then undress in the face of more water and eventually encase their heads in a mixture of what seems to be straws and mush, creating deformed faces.

The variation on Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the concluding song Rockaby, a variation of a theme in Mozart piano sonata No 11, like the rest of the other pieces, drown out these variations, generating a new reality which is familiar, yet very different, possibly mirroring the society we live in – a distorted kaleidoscope.

  • Theatre Concert
  • Directed by Nikolaj Cederholm
  • Music Directors and Producers: Jens and Peter Hellemann
  • Songs written by Neill Cardinal Furio
  • Costume design by Anja Vang Kragh
  • Cast includes: Lotte Andersen, Mark Linn, Martin Greis, Bjørn Fjæstad, Claus Hempler Louise Hart, Björn Jönsson, Søren Bigum, Bastian Sjelberg, Kristian Jørgensen
  • The Barbican Centre, London
  • Until 1st March 2014
  • Time: 19:45
  • Review by Rivka Jacobson
  • 26 February 2014

About The Author

Executive Director

Rivka Jacobson, founder of Passion for theatre and years spent defending immigrants and asylum seekers in UK courts fuelled her determination to establish a platform for international theatre reviews. Rivka’s aim is to provide people of all ages, from all backgrounds, and indeed all countries with opportunities to see and review a diverse range of shows and productions. She is particularly keen to encourage young critics to engage with all aspects of theatre. She hopes to nurture understanding and tolerance across different cultures through the performing arts.

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