Kiss me, Figaro!

Reviewer's Rating

There are some things in life which seem like a really good idea over a couple of glasses of chardonnay and yet, in the cold light of artistic execution somehow fall spectacularly short of their creators’ intent.

Such is, I fear, Kiss Me, Figaro! now playing at the extremely uncomfortable Studio 3 of Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios.

On paper a mash-up of operatic arias, chunks of actual operas, and occasional titbits of twentieth century popular song, all set against a loose re-telling of Kiss Me Kate, itself a loose re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, sounds like a good idea.

No, scrub that. It sounds like an awful idea, and I’m afraid that I’ve just sat through two hours ten minutes of bum-numbing boredom which prove that to be the case.

The problem, as is so very often the case with jukebox shows – which is effectively what this is – is with the book.

I know I keep harping on about it, but we’re back to those three basic questions again which can prove success or failure to any theatrical venture: Whose story is it? What do they want? What’s stopping them from getting it?

Actually this ought to be a piece of cake, as there are no sub-plots.

A pair of lovers separated before the start of Act One need somehow to be reunited by the end of Act Two. How will we do it? That’s what the show is all about.

It’s not rocket science, and yet in the less than capable hands of John Ramster’s misfire of a book we find out far, far too late in the day who our lead character is, and by the time we have done, the boredom has set in, and any emotional capital we might have thought worthwhile in investing, has been utilised wondering how big the crush will be at the bar during the interval (which, as it happens, was huge given that both the cinema and Studio 3 kicked out at the same time. Is it not beyond the wit of whoever schedules the work on offer to stagger the timings?).

So, what of the actual performers? Well having told you what’s wrong with the show, I should give credit where it’s due, and say that almost to a man – and woman – the performers are exceptionally good, and the reason for the show garnering the three stars that I’ve given it.

The lead part, Joe Morgan, is taken by Joe Morgan (I know, it’s confusing, and I’m not altogether clear what meta-textual god is served by the male and female lead – Daisy Brown – having the same names as their characters. Anyway, Joe Morgan has the sort of impish, dimpled grin that Michael Ball was able to build a whole career on, and fortunately has a voice to match. He can also act, and play the guitar. What’s he doing wasting his time here when he could have a very good career in the West End?

The aforementioned Daisy Morgan as the feisty… Daisy Morgan (see above) proves just as shrewish as Lilli Vanessi in Porter’s version, and her act two paean to lost love very nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Of the other characters, Georges de Polignac, the wonderfully rich baritone of James Harrison, was imposing, though under-used, and Felicity Buckland, as Una Bryant has the looks and voice to make me wonder again why she hasn’t gone further. They’re all young, and predict glittering careers.

This review sees me coming almost full circle for, as the first review I ever did was for Kiss Me, Kate with which Kiss Me, Figaro, by the very nature of the title, seeks to draw comparison.

I’m afraid to tell The Merry Opera Company that it doesn’t warrant comparison, but with the work of a decent dramaturge, and some judicious pruning, there could be the kernel of a show in here worth watching.