Monday, 9 January 2017

Theatre 2017 - Review One: All the Angels

All the Angels, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe, London. January 2017.

Wow - what a way to start theatre trips in 2017! This play had appealed to me from the instant I saw it in the Globe's brochure a while back, and I was sad that I couldn't get to those first performances. When it was announced that it was coming back for the winter 2016/17 season I knew I had to go.  I'm not sure Rebecca knew what she was agreeing to but she gamely took on board my enthusiasm and we booked seats.

How to explain is the story of Handel writing and staging the first performances of the Messiah but it isn't a performance of the oratorio, nor is it a straight play about the writing process.  It travels from Chester to Dublin and is about redemption and the power of music. It is also a masterclass in singing and composing.  It was also utterly spellbinding and overwhelmingly powerful.

I've loved (the famous bits of) the Messiah for a long time and the power of the music was made clear to me when we heard excerpts performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of their candlelit Christmas festival a few years ago.  Hearing the evolution of the music in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker was magical. The voices filled the space wonderfully and being both an intimate but still quite large space it was wonderful to feel the music filling the space.

The two subplots, one imagined and one real, did bind the music together and being interested in Shakespeare and performance history I really enjoyed Susannah Cibber's story while the Crow's provided a valve from the heightened emotion of the Messiah.

The use of the singers as almost actors was inspired too - they personified the power of music in a very clever way whilst being consummate professionals. Kudos to them all as they had to perform singing badly too which must have almost been harder than Handel's original.

I think that you can tell I loved this piece of theatre,  I could quite easily have sat through it again that day despite the discomfort of the seats. If this doesn't make my top 10 plays of 2017 then this year is going to be really brilliant in terms of theatre.

Now if someone can recommend a really good recording of the Messiah for me to listen to I'd be most grateful

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