By Peter J Pullan
When we first walked into the auditorium, the bronze-coloured cliff-like sculpture dominating the stage seemed a million miles away from Catfish Row, but with the electrifying performance that was to follow it played its part along with the beautiful lighting and the magical setting of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
We have become used to really wonderful musical productions each year in this venue and ‘Porgy & Bess’ was no exception. The key point for me in this production was how much more I experienced the words compared to other productions that I’ve seen. This was a very real depiction of lives blighted by poverty, drink and drugs, the characters completely credible in their shifts from comic to tragic, naive to manipulative. The solo singing was often outstanding, but always synonymous with the character so it was the character’s situation that touched the audience. The ensemble work, both singing and dancing, was brilliant. There were some very imaginative moments such as the conversion of tables and chairs into a fishing boat and the terrifying hurricane scene.
The music with its mix of opera, jazz, gospel and blues was played by a much larger band than usual but always portrayed the intimacy of the moment.
The captioning conveyed the beauty and humour of the characteristic way of speaking in the American Deep South, and managed to capture the tricky ensemble numbers extremely well.
When we came back from the interval, the lighting was at its most magical with the glow of the bronze rock, the green trees above and the deep blue sky. Coupled with an intensely emotional performance such as this, it told us why we love going to captioned performances at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.