Tete a Tete Circus Tricks - Spear's Magazine

Tete a Tete Circus Tricks

Artistic director Bill Bankes-Jones is a visionary at a time when we need visionaries

Has anyone tried experimental avant-garde contemporary opera? Would you like to give it a go? Now that spring is here a walk down the Thames to the Riverside studios in Hammersmith will have you stumbling across Tête à Tête’s new production of Circus Tricks.

It is worth taking note of this innovative opera company which for the last five years has commissioned and produced a plethora of quirky and original operas. There is nothing else quite like this company and artistic director Bill Bankes-Jones is a visionary at a time when we need visionaries.

Circus Tricks is a troubled yet cute glimpse in to the lives of circus performers in the doldrums. Love it or hate it, the music by Adey Grummet (words by Michael Henry) is as modern as you can get but not so much that it interferes with the superb cast each presenting their respective frustrations and desires.

The central character Barney the horse was superbly acted and sung by Christopher Diffey. He canters around the ring, chews grass in between phrases and is at one point, brushed down by the cute blonde trapeze artist leaving him in a state of frenzied ecstasy. I would love any tenor to sing this highly charged ‘brushing aria’ in an audition just to see what the reaction of an audition panel would be. It was utterly charming and very amusing indeed.

Circus Tricks is a colourful and visual production with elements of Pagliacci and Billy Smart thrown in to the mix yet somehow in the first half lacked plot and the drama wasn’t moving quickly enough. This all changed after the interval, aided by a swift glass of champagne: the opera had turned on its head and an excellent comic twist ensured the success of this amusing and original piece.

Hats off to a superbly cast of singers: Daniel Broad as the knife-thrower, Alison Crookendale his pining assistant, Daniel Keating Roberts and Simon Wilding as two acrobats and the sparkling Yvette Bonner who possesses a shining coloratura and great stage presence.

A special mention must go to the divine mezzo Lily Papaionnou singing Xiu the contortionist. I have never seen anyone ooze such sexuality on stage. Her voice is like chocolate and her timing and acting totally transfixed the whole audience. This girl will be a big star. I would love to hear her sing Handel and my what a devastating Carmen she would make. Keep a look out for this company as they often do daring and innovative productions.

Circus Tricks is on until Sunday 25 March at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith


Read more by Melinda Hughes