When the spotlight falls on 'the audience'

The Stalls at Cork Opera House was a hugely enjoyable early event from Cork Midsummer festival, writes Cathy Desmond.

When the spotlight falls on 'the audience'

The Stalls at Cork Opera House was a hugely enjoyable early event from Cork Midsummer festival, writes Cathy Desmond.

The spotlight falls on ‘the audience’ in the third instalment of Tom Lane and Lily Akerman’s unconventional chamber opera series commissioned by and set in and around Cork Opera House.

With the two previous episodes staged in the foyer and backstage areas, the last scene in the trilogy moves into the main auditorium with an expanded cast and an extended running time of an hour. The production plays with the space to create a novel theatrical experience in which the audience real and imagined come face to face.

Lily Akerman’s witty libretto brings the cast of everyday, relatable characters into sharp focus and the singers do a good job of putting the text of Peep Show style inner monologues over clearly.

There are roles for a grumpy old man, a prevaricating opera critic, a dating couple, opera buffs and operaphobes.

The Stalls pokes fun at the opera genre itself and the common irritations that plague theatrical performances, the crinkle of a sweet wrapper, the inevitable mobile phone. A satisfying coup-de-theatre enlivens the final stages.

The real audience laughed a lot and the cough index was low, always a good sign. Tom Doyle placed behind us did a good job of marshalling the forces of musicians and 19 singers. The six-piece wind and string ensemble underpinned by Alex Petcu on marimba did justice to Lane’s colourful score.

The Stalls marks the end of Lane’s current trilogy, but the success of his hugely enjoyable productions at Cork Midsummer since 20017 will have punters hoping he returns again next year.

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