Owen Wingrave

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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Owen Wingrave – O’ Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Composer: Benjamin Britten

Director: Tom Creed
Conductor: Stephen Barlow

Owen Wingrave, which was composed during the height of the Vietnam War, questions whether pacifism is an act of strength or cowardice. By deciding to step away from a life of war and conflict he is also walking away from everything that his family have stood for; honour through courage, defending Queen and Country no matter the cost. More than this it is also about family. The audience is engendered to feel sympathy for Owen as his family turn on him. The weight of his past and his family history bears down on Owen as he breaks away, deciding upon his own belief system even though they conflict so dramatically with those he grew up with.

This may not be the most obvious choice of opera, however, it is an intriguing addition to the Fringe Festival programme. As Owen becomes increasingly isolated the speed of the production increases. The second half flies by, building in intensity to its tragic climax.

The back wall is designed to look like an Army barracks. The soldiers wear green fatigues that give the story a modern touch. At one point a British flag is projected on the back wall. It flutters before disappearing. Although the staging and lighting are relatively simple it is used to maximum effect. Plinths are brought onto the stage and statues of birds of prey placed on top. They are intimidating and dominate the stage. This is a great use of symbolism on stage that both enhances the storyline and also makes it easier to follow for those less familiar with opera.

The cast and orchestra all perform well, however special mention should go to Christopher Cull as Spencer Coyle who carries off the complex part with nuance, and Benjamin Russell who plays Owen with aplomb.

Hopefully, this production will return to Dublin soon.

Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Contributed