Noye’s Fludde at Theatre Royal Stratford East
A charming interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s classic opera about the Biblical legend of Noah’s Ark, Noye’s Fludde – directed by Lyndsey Turner – is on at the beautiful Theatre Royal Stratford East, co-producer with the English National Opera. With a contemporary quality, the piece has a relatively relaxed multicultural ambience, rendering the story of Noah and his ark accessible for the 21st century.
Although Britten had specified that a large space should be used for his opera, this production works well despite the smaller stage. Considering the massive number of players it’s quite a feat. True, there is a slight issue of visual and auditory obscurity of some of the troupe toward the back. However, it is minimal and is outweighed by the mastery of the presentation as a whole, and by the endearing joyfulness of the child performers.
With the help of conductor Martin Fitzpatrick, the orchestra is a success; Choreographer Wayne McGregor and Movement Director Lynne Page have triumphed, particularly in light of the logistics of a huge cast in a limited arena; under Lyndsey Turner’s stellar direction, the vocals – mostly by youths in solos and chorus – are brilliant. Imagery such as designer Soutra Gilmour’s collapsible ark and video artist Luke Hall’s rainbow projections are adapted ingeniously to capacity. Oliver Jeffers’ animal renderings are one of the visual highlights of the show.
Of the adult players, actress Suzanne Bertish stands out in her terrific portrayal of God; baritone Marcus Farnsworth is an impressive Noah, and mezzo-soprano Louise Callinan is convincing as the sceptical Mrs Noah. The children’s enthusiastic, winsome and exceptional performances are particularly engaging.
Created as a television project, Noye’s Fludde’s first showing was in 1958. Originally intended primarily for amateur actors and singers, only the parts of Noah and his wife were written for professionals. Likewise the orchestra was meant to be comprised of primarily non-specialists – with the use of unusual and unconventional instruments and sound effects – and include a small selection of seasoned musicians. Though the ENO/Stratford East production leans slightly more toward the professional than usual, considering the enormous cast, musicians and crew, and the hundreds of school children – most of them laypeople – the excellence of the result is notable.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Noye’s Fludde is at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 1st until 13th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Noye’s Fludde here: