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Poling gets political in The King’s Head Theatre’s splendid new staging of La Traviata

11 October, 2018 — By seb

La Traviata at King’s Head Theatre, with Emma Walsh as Violetta. Photo: Bill Knight

We’re in a sleazy “gentlemen’s club” in Bristol’s red light district. Violetta is pole-dancing, giving the men the eye. Flora is the club’s “madam”, striding about the floor. Germont has transformed into a Labour Party councillor, Sinclair. Alfredo is his son Elijah, a sheepish young man afraid of women.

Welcome to Verdi’s La Traviata, splendidly recast and rewritten into a new version at the King’s Head Theatre by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson.

The orchestral reduction is played with aplomb by pianist Panaretos Kyriatzidis. There’s no support from other instruments, which works well.
The storyline has gone through mangle. Labour politician Sinclair has brought son Elijah along to Flora’s as he’s worried his son is not interested in the other sex.

But once Elijah sees Violetta’s pole dance, he’s greatly smitten, so much so that they set up home together.That’s not to Sinclair’s liking as he’s worried adverse publicity might affect his election chances – and he successfully pleads with Violetta to drop the affair.

But it’s downhill for Violetta once she’s lap-dancing again at Flora’s. Her life is miserable without Elijah who’s become a successful prize-winning musician. She joins the homeless on the street, ending her life by excessive booze and pill-taking.

There’s no last-minute get-together of the two lovers. Instead, Elijah promises to come to her rescue in a vision.

There’s an alternating cast. On my night, Becca Marriott herself was quite outstanding singing Violetta with intensity, drawing every drop out of Verdi’s tear-jerker. Oliver Brignall made for a strong Elijah and Gemma Morsley almost morphed into a dominatrix.

Verdi’s La Traviata is at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, until October 27, 020 7226 8561, www.kingsheadtheatre.com

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