First night (15)

Starring: Richard E Grant, Sarah Brightman

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The Independent Culture

A stiff drink is recommended to get you through this, and then another immediately afterwards. Richard E Grant stars as a wealthy industrialist who sponsors a production of Così fan tutte at his baronial country house, where the behaviour of cast and crew is meant to generate a comic – if not Mozartian – opera in itself. Sadly, the writer-director Christopher Menaul has no gift for farce, though after a while the clunking dialogue and the stagey set-ups exert a bizarre fascination: did I just dream Sarah Brightman's performance, or was that ghoulish apparition with the mad laugh actually her? It's basically Peter's Friends with opera buffa trimmings, and itself carries the whiff of a rich man's indulgence.