"a fascinating piece, beautifully performed"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 27/08/18

At the Arcola as part of a National tour

The Arcola Theatre presents us with many surprises. Nothing is ever as it could be expected.

This version of Carmen is taken from the original story by Prosper Merimee, retold by Dan Allum who has transplanted it from Seville to a travellers encampment in Great Britain. Dan Allum is the Artistic Director of Romany Theatre, whose plays tour nationally and it is written in English and Romani. He is also responsible for the original Gypsy folk songs.

Carmen (Candis Nergaard) lives in a gipsy encampment represented by a rectangular openwork metal fence which is the sole setting for the piece most of which is performed inside. Mariah and the Musician sit outside with their instruments. There are only five actor / musicians and they play a wide variety of instruments, three guitars, violin, accordion, tin whistle and a couple of spoons.

Carmen is married to Garcia (Michael Mahony) – a bullying husband. ‘Tute shan meero rom, kek meero doovel’ she remarks – (you are my husband not my god).

Carmen longs to escape from her traditional life. ‘Gyppos are parasites, Rats in the sewer’ and crashes her body against the Walls of her cage over and over again . When she meets a young discredited solder don Jose (Adam Rojko Vega) she uses her tarot cards to tell he fortune. He falls in love with her and wants to help her get her freedom.

She is a fortune teller and uses the cards to tell the fortune of a young discredited soldier Don Jose Adam Rojko Vega a ‘Gadje’,( non-traveller) he loves her and wants to help her get her freedom.

“But When the outside world thinks you are scum, can you ever be free?”

‘It’s what we feel that frees us’

The company indulge in traditional cage fighting. Every member of the cast play at boxing a various times, but it becomes serious when Don Jose is pushed into a competitive boxing match. An event which leads into the inevitable ending.

It is a fascinating piece, beautifully performed, but surely can hardly be called an opera because it is mostly spoken and most of the songs are rendered by Mariah (Christina Tedders) and Gareth O’Connor. The rest of the cast join in the singing and we wait for Carmen to sing, but she never does.

The musical director is Candida Caldicot and choreography by Chi San Howard.

Abigail Graham directs.

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