Saturday, 2 July 2011

Two Boys

Last night Trevor, Ben and I went to the ENO to see their production of 'Two Boys', a new commission from the ENO, written by Nico Muhly, a ridiculously talented Canadian 30 year old composer and libretto by Craig Lucas.

The story is not the stuff of Carmen, but is filled with Drama and intrigue from the beginning. We open to a detective looking through the case notes of a stabbing incident. The victim is not yet revealed but the suspect is 16 year old Brian (Nicky Spence). A boy who not only lives in this life but also a virtual world on the computer, filled with 'real people' and situations. Spending a lot of time on his computer chatting to 'mindful16', a girl called Rebecca who takes an interest in Brian and he becomes quickly besotted.

As far as proof goes, it's pretty watertight. CCTV footage shows Brian leading the boy into a desolate shopping centre, then leaving alone and screaming for help. It all seems lost for Brian. However, he is adamant he is not the only person involved - gradually we hear about Peter the Gardner, a Secret Agent and a young computer hacker. Obviously this falls on deaf ears, the detective Anne Strawson (Susan Bickley) seeing this as a young boys imaginary world to detract from the seriousness of the crime - that is until she finds the transcripts of conversations between Brian and all his seemingly not so imaginary friends. As the piece progresses we discover with the detective the real reason behind Brian's actions.......(dramatic pause)

The story is wonderful and incredibly dramatic. The structure of the piece overall teases the story from the stage piece by piece and leads to an incredibly interesting conclusion. Musically this is the same, the choral sections particularly are stunning, and give an impression of fluidity and complexity parallel to that happening in the story which you don't come to expect from opera ensembles.

If you have never been to the Opera, I'll be honest, having people singing does take some getting used to. Particularly in the more contemporary operas where people are as likely to be singing about buying a pint of milk as singing the huge dramatic arias synonymous with the artform. And as a total opera covert and lover, I must also admit I often find myself thinking, 'this would be a great play'.

But why wouldn't opera want to tackle modern issues? And can the expression of the story through song give us a new meaning or perspective on these issues? Theatre is meant to be a tool for change and awareness, as well as entertainment and event. The form of opera seems to be changing too. As the action happens around the music, there can be large sections where performers have to silently 'act' because they're not due back in for another 14 bars. But 'Two Boys' had less of that fill, and much more speed in delivery which fitted with the fast paced world of technological communications.

Overall, a wonderful evening at the theatre and another success for the ENO. Obviously well done to Val Reid as well who not only sang beautifully her portrayal of Anne's mother showed real interest and characterisation.

A great show. I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

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