It’s an epidemic, from Kings’ Head to Cock Tavern Norf London rub-a-dubs are lining up to serve Puccini with the pork scratchings, but The Gatehouse’s ‘Troy Boy’ breaks new ground with a less familiar piece.
How quickly the fashion fades and it’s no longer enough to encourage sopranos to behave like Essex girls or ask young tenors and baritones to stop shaving for a couple of days, since scruffiness alone won’t re-write Boheme.
La Belle Helene is possibly more familiar as that pear and chocolate dessert and Offenbach’s operetta isn’t chock full of choonz made familiar from films and TV ads, so professional Radio 4 ponce Kit Hesketh-Harvey has larded the libretto with aching puns and shifted the location somewhat loosely between Sparta, Surbiton and Faliraki.
A pert blonde seduces a young lover on a Greek Isle. So far, so Mamma Mia. As a parody of a parody, Troy Boy has identity issues and some of the witty lines only come across when laboured by the cast, in the ‘patter songs’ they’re lost in Gilbertian occlusion.
However, the singing is almost flawless, drawing from London’s deep pool of assured and well developed young voices.
Rosalind Coad excels as a poutingly spoilt Helen with power and clarity in her singing, but a terrible wig. Christopher Diffey inhabits the Troy-boy-toy Paris superbly with bright, vaulting, almost over-sung high notes and the ensemble is excellent and frequently underpinned by the warm and beautifully supported Bass of Marcin Gesla as Agamemnon.
There's a six-piece orchestra, a clever set, and some revealing costumes. It is amazing that work of this quality can be presented for a ticket price of £12. We hope the cast are getting paid, but it’s the best opera bargain in town.
Troy Boy continues Upstairs At The Gatehouse Tuesday to Saturday at 7.45pm and Sundays at 4pm until 5 March. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) for all performances except Saturdays which are £4 more. There will also be three free performances at 'The Scoop' outdoors at City Hall from 8 to 10 June. All details on the Merry Opera Company's website, here.