Wallen/Greer,Yes, Linbury Studio Theatre
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Thursday 24 November 2011
starting and finishing point for Errollyn Wallen and Bonnie Greer’s chamber
opera Yes is Greer’s 2009 appearance
on BBC’s Question Time alongside the
British National Party’s Nick Griffin.
Entering the Linbury auditorium - opened up on this occasion to an audience on opposing sides of the action, as it were - the floor of the acting area is spattered with words reflecting the firestorm of publicity and debate which enveloped this now notorious event. But where is the debate in Greer’s self-reverential libretto? Why does she suppose that by simply stating the obvious – that Britain is a nation of immigrants – and then asking “why” might be the basis for a piece cast in that most dramatic of art forms: opera. We know where Yes begins and ends – it’s the void in between that is troublesome.
The issue of national identity and the evolution of multicultural Britain is, of course, one that needs to be restated and reiterated to those who would deny it and it is that – the history of this sceptred isle – that is the grouting for Greer and Wallen’s piece. The inferred irony of a Muslim woman delivering an era-by-era account of our heritage set to a succession of musical parodies might be amusing if it weren’t so patronising. For the really dumb among us, the names of our descendents flash up on the screen: Celt, Roman, Saxon, Norman, Dane, Viking, Huguenot, and so on. We have evolved from invaders and refugees; at heart we are a nation of immigrants; we get it. But is that it? Yes. Well, at least the title rings true.
It doesn’t help, of course, that Greer is unavoidably the central character in all of this, sitting at her desk marinating in quasi-poetic thoughts (“My life is solitary”), pondering the BBC’s invitation (“I said yes”), recalling her mother’s advice always to “be herself”. The truisms just keep coming. And the stereotypes. And the clichés. Director John Lloyd Davies keeps them coming: strobe, slo-mo, shadow play, even an animatronic cat. And amidst all the musical allusions there are only fleeting glimmers of Errollyn Wallen’s undeniable talent.
“Who’s listening, no one hears us”, reiterates the chorus against Wallen’s jazzy ostinati. One wanted to respond: when you’ve something to say, we’ll listen. Could an hour really be so long?
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 3 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Avengers: Age of Ultron set to make box office history with $84.5m US opening
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
New on Netflix UK May 2015: From Fast & Furious 6 to World War Z and Grace and Frankie
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds