Review: Aida

Ben Redwood 15 March 2013

Aida

ADC Theatre, 13th – 23rd March, 7.45 pm

Aida was originally inspired by Verdi’s opera of the same name. It tells the story of a forbidden love between a Nubian princess and an Egyptian soldier, and whether their love can overcome their divergent duties, nations and fates. Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical tragedy experiences a vivid revival, which, in spite of some weak points, will leave you walking away impressed.

This production was driven by its musical strength. Nearly the whole cast proved themselves powerful and skilled singers, while the live orchestra hidden in the wings was phenomenal (if it were not for a couple of slips, I would have thought they were recorded).

In a director’s blog, Atri Banerjee wrote that he hoped to use “theatrical artifice” to maximum effect to create something “elegant” and “stylised”, and the creative team certainly achieved this. The use of ribbons for gore was a nifty touch, while several scenes involving the suspension of lanterns created something enchanting and haunting. The choreography was tight, electric, and composed of brilliant decisions, truly flaunted in ‘Another pyramid’ (although the sword choreography was unfortunately poor). A nice touch was the pharaoh’s chariot, composed of the chorus, who were, incidentally, all fantastic.

The star of the show was undoubtedly Rosalind Peters as Amneris. Her performance was superb, nailing her sassy character in some brilliant comic scenes, while still having enough skill to pull off a heart-wrenching performance of ‘I know the truth’. Both kings (Saul Boyer, Edward Eustace) performed their characters like Disney caricatures and were all the more charming for it. Robbie Aird played Zoser generally well but he failed to come across as particularly villainous. Matthew Elliot-Ripley also gave a strong performance as Mereb.

The leading roles were good but not quite so impressive as the supporting cast. Lauren Hutchinson as Aida had a fantastic dignity but this occasionally constricted her emotionally and made her hard to hear. Some songs were emotionally lukewarm, especially the start of Act 2, but other songs erupted in passion. Henry Jenkinson as Prince Radames was lacking in masculine dignity; at times this worked to his advantage but in some of the more tragic scenes he seemed a little pathetic. There was also a lack of chemistry between them: the romantic tension only sparked if they stood within 30 cm of each other.

Overall then, this show is well worth going to see. Despite the occasional lapses in characterisation, things come together in the genius ending, which creates one of the most moving spectacles you will be likely to see at the ADC.

Ben Redwood