07 August 2006

Carry On Oop La Scala

Cooking With Puccini, St George's West

What if TV had been around in Puccini's day? What if the great Italian composer had appeared on a "Light Lunch" style cookery and chat programme? What if, on the show, he was candid not guarded?

I think that's probably at least one "what if" too far, and that's just the first of three major problems with Cooking With Puccini.

The second is the breakneck pace necessary to make what feels like a 1hr 30min show fit into a 1hr 15min slot. This means the crucial connection between actors and audience is difficult to establish and never really gels. As a result, what could have been a climactic communal performance of the Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly is more than a little awkward.

The final problem is the difficulty in writing and acting supposedly spontaneous dialogue. This difficulty is not helped by a leading lady obviously case for skills other than acting. (Singing ! Settle down at the back!)

When Puccini does hit his stride the show works well, including the clever conceit that allows Puccini from Lucca (up north in Italy) to sound like he's from Leeds (oop north in England). That doesn't explain the widely varying accent of the "presenter" of the show, however. Overall it's an interesting idea, but it just falls flat.

NTW : The Whore's Dance - with dialogue whizzing past at 100 miles an hour you resent such a slow interlude.

JTD : Employing a stagehand with harmonising capabilities - highlight of the show.

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