The Divinity School
Whose fault is it anyway? This chamber opera, in which God narrates the first story of fratricide in Christian tradition, raises the question of the predetermined nature of the first murder and almost holds God accountable for it.
The clever staging really serves to emphasise the sadness of their presentation of the second fall of man. Not to reveal too much, but they use a screen with Cain and Abel's shadows showing them dress and become civilised human beings. The acting at this point is simple but, in time with the music and the lighting, creates a shifting effect of merging shadows that accentuates the idea that they are brothers and not that different from each other. Kieran Brunt's portrayal of Cain's sadness from God's rejection is simple but effective, looking down at the ground like a school boy who's had their lunch money taken by much larger kids. Perhaps that is a belittling comparison given the gravity of the situation, but its simplicity is evocative of the audience sympathy evoked by the impressive simplicity of this depiction of the biblical narrative.
Now for the music, mainly good, but somewhat lost on the audience as Michael Mofidian's singing overshadows it. Hats off to him though for keeping a straight face when he sings ‘He was a tiller of the gro-o-u-u-nd' with gravity and intensity. The orchestra was good, with moments of ‘sneaky' musical solos for Cain during his scheming and deception that were well coordinated with the acting.
In terms of the performance, not that much is acting is done, but I think I've made that clear. The emphasis is placed more on dramatic representation by other means, the lighting and the screen device for instance. In fact, the lighting is relied upon more than anything else, and while this is effective in projecting Mofidian's shadow onto the celling in a very God-like way, it is overused. Perhaps more could have been done to imply more of a sense of Abel's character and Cain's provocation could have been more expressive, but for the sake of half an hour, I would highly recommend CAIN for its brevity and intensity.
The performance is interesting, thought provoking as well as entertaining. The orchestra is intense at times and the solos are mainly well delivered. As a final touch, staging it in St John's Divinity School gives an atmospheric contribution to the overall experience.