The curse is on me
At the Covent Garden Festival, 'Camelot' lives down to its reputation.
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.
Friday 07 June 1996
So what kind of evening is salvageable in 1996? A long one, that's for sure. And, in Frank Dunlop's production for the Covent Garden Festival, a dowdy one. I haven't seen so many string vests since the Romford Glee Club (I believe)so memorably jousted with 1066 and All That. And the frocks. If only they'd asked. Maiden aunts up and down the land could have helped out.
It needs a great deal that wasn't forthcoming here. A theatre, for starters. I'm beginning to think that the Freemason's Hall is where musicals come to die. What can you do with this problematic space, this ungrateful acoustic, except hike up the miking and make magic with a ramp and a cat-walk. Frank Dunlop would once have done just that. But he seems to have sat this one out. It's a long time since I've seen so many bodies come and go to so little purpose. Scene after sceneseems to have wandered in off Long Acre. There is a glimpse of another kind of show in the shape of Desmond McNamara whose "double" as a dubiously Welsh ("look you") Merlin and a hearty ("what, what") Pellinore works hard to recapture even a modicum of the energy that marked out Dunlop's palmy days as founding director of the Young Vic. But he's up against it.
So are they all. In Paul Nicholas, we have a thoroughly Nineties Arthur, a charmer, a bit of a worldly wide-boy. He's a sincere orator, but the Burtonesque authority eludes him. Try as he may, he cannot check the poppy, rocky cast of his voice. Samantha Janus - a pert, often touching Guenevere, aching to be ravished - does better on that score. And Jason Donovan is not half bad (given the paucity of his material) as a degenerative Johnny Rotten-styled Mordred. Robert Meadmore's physically under-par Lancelot looks more in search of haute couture than deeds of derring-do, but at least affords us the pleasure of really musical phrasing.
In that he is a blast from the past. So too, the burnished sound of an ample band underGareth Valentine, sporting what sound like the original Robert Russell Bennett / Philip J Lang orchestrations. Now there's nostalgia. Which reminds me - where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
n Booking: 0171-312 1996
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women