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The Enchanted Pig

Love makes you the hero. Love makes you the fool.
Love makes you happy. Love makes you cruel.

---- Chorus
The Enchanted Pig
Caryl Hughes as Flora and Rodney Clarke as The Pig
(Photo: Keith Pattison)
The Young Vic's Christmas production is a step away from their usual seasonal play for children. Jonathon Dove's new opera The Enchanted Pig is based on a charming fairy tale about a princess whose fate is to marry a pig. Dove's score is modern and quite demanding for both performers and the audience so you may want to think of this production as suiting slightly older children. Of course all princesses who marry, marry swine, it's just that some of them are a bit muddier and grosser than others and Flora's (Caryl Dennis/Anna Hughes) fate is to pick one who muddies her beautiful white wedding dress.

The tale is based on a folk tale from Romania for which Alasdair Middleton has written an original and inventive libretto. King Hildebrand (John Rawnsley) has forbidden his three daughters to enter a locked room and like all girls with curiosity and initiative they unlock it and discover the Book of Fate, which predicts that two of the princesses will marry handsome kings, but that the youngest Flora must wed a fat pig from the North. The Pig is a pig by day but a handsome man by night because of a witch's spell. Flora's groom is kidnapped by The Old Woman (Nuala Willis) with a view to his marrying her daughter Adelaide (Kate Chapman) and to rescue him Flora has to wear out three pairs of shoes made of iron by travelling round the world. On this journey she meets the North Winds (John Rawnsley and Nuala Willis), the Sun (Delroy Atkinson) and the Moon (Joshua Dallas). You see Flora has fallen in love with The Pig (Rodney Clarke/Byron Watson) and she seems to quite enjoy frolicking in their bed of mud.

The opera is designed by Dick Bird with a creative wit which allows the princesses to have high coiffures like swirling ice cream cones trimmed with Burberry ribbon and The Pig to be a vision of pigskin and porcine references. Flora is enabled to fly on wires and the characterisation of the North Winds as an old settled but verbally sparring couple is interesting. John Fulljames, director of The Opera Group who have jointly produced The Enchanted Pig with The Young Vic, has given us a production that is never static.

The singing is exquisite and Caryl Hughes has a very large part as Flora. She is rarely off stage, except of course when she is flying over it! Rodney Clarke has great stage presence and a beautiful voice and Akiya Henry is always fun to watch and easy to listen to. Alasdair Middleton's libretto is full of clarity and has moments of comic genius like the song of the North Winds about the realities of a loving household with her false teeth and his hairy back. The ending is happy although I think we would all have preferred hearing about the fun in the mud, "A lovely pool of bubbly mud. Churning, chestnut, chocolate pool; Thick, relaxing, tempting, cool — To quench the fires of swinish blood.

In case you think that someone has bewitched the Young Vic and rebuilt it as an opera house, I can report that the next four main house productions will all be plays or I might have to wear iron shoes!

Music composed by Jonathan Dove
Libretto by Alasdair Middleton
Directed by John Fulljames

Starring: Caryl Hughes, Rodney Clarke
With: John Rawnsley, Kate Chapman, Akiya Henry, Anna Dennis, Nuala Willis, Joshua Dallas, Delroy Atkinson, Byron Watson
Design: Dick Bird
Lighting: Paul Anderson
Musical Direction: Ian Watson or Edward Hessian
Movement: Philippe Giraudeau
Running time: Two hours twenty minutes with one interval
A joint production of The Young Vic and The Opera Group
Box Office: 020 7922 2922
Booking at the Young Vic to 27th January 2007
Then Northern Stage Newcastle 0191 230 5151, 31st January to 3rd February
Aldeburgh Music, Snape, Suffolk 01728 687 110, 10th and 11th February
Sheffield Lyceum 0114 249 6000 15th to 17th February
Richmond Theatre 0870 060 6651 27th February to 3rd March
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th December 2006 performance at the Young Vic. The Cut, London SE1 (Rail/Tube: Waterloo/Southwark)
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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