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
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees