Madame Butterfly at the White Rock, WI outing, Animal Writes

Last year we went to Opera South-East’s Nabucco, and enjoyed it immensely. It was gripping, well produced, and well sung, so we had high hopes of this production of Madam Butterfly.
     We started the evening by trying the pre-theatre meal at the White Rock Theatre cafe. It was perfectly OK, and the service was excellent, but the menu was slightly crazy, perhaps designed to appeal to the larger Hastingas appetite. It offered the opportunity to ‘Dine for £10 per head’, and the offer included a main course and a side order. Mains were things like scampi and chips, sausage and mash, burger and chips. Sides were….wait for it, chips and mash. There was also the option of garlic bread, which we asked for as a starter, but were told that there would be ‘no time’…..even though we’d sat down at 6pm.    Anyway, the food came on little wooden boards and was just fine – we’d have it again.
     We had seats in the second row of the circle. I like the White Rock, but the gaps between the rows are very small, and the rows are very long in the centre block…. A group of  incredibly ancient people staggered

slowly and painfully down the steps to sit in front of us. No sooner had they slumped, exhausted, into their seats than a couple wanted to get past them. They heaved themselves up, collapsed down again, and it happened again…. and again…. we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry….
     We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over most of the production, either. It was sung in English, which sounds good, but only a very few of the singers managed to make their words audible above the orchestra. Sing it in Italian and have surtitles, I say.
      The staging and lighting were excellent – minimal but effective. Costumes – hmm. They’d set it in the twenties, and made little attempt to portray the characters as Japanese. Butterfly was sung by Elizabeth Roberts, who is a good strong big-boned English girl. Striding about in a sleeveless cotton flapper dress, she was no demure Japanese flower – she looked like she was heading off for tennis – think Betjeman’s Joan Hunter-Dunn. I didn’t mind her voice, Philosopher thought she used too much vibrato, but whatever was going on, you couldn’t make out a word she sang.
      Some of the other cast members didn’t look very Japanese either. Rather, they looked as if they had enjoyed too many Dine for £10 double chips sessions in the cafe. They would have been better draped in kimonos. At one stage a group of women attempted a tai-chi type ritual dance – it looked more like the Bums and Tums class at the Ore Community Centre….
      Pinkerton was not terribly convincing. His voice was strained, and he looked faintly down-at-heel and seedy. The best singers were the baritone, Peter Grevett, who, incidentally, played Nabucco last year, Toby Sims, bass-baritone, who was Zacharia in Nabucco, and Karen McInally, who sang the role of Suzuki, Butterfly’s maid.
     Don’t get me wrong though, we enjoyed the evening – and the sunset on the way down to the theatre was just incredible – like the end of the world.
     So, what else? Went on a very good day out to Greenwich with my WI book group – we went to the Queens House to look at the Tudor portraits, had lunch in the Maritime Museum, and then had a potter round Greenwich market. The weather was warm and sunny, and everyone was very cheerful.
     I have also been hawking the Writing Group Anthology ‘ Animal Writes’ round book shops, pet shops, vets etc. Spent ages uploading an on-line checkout gizmo so people can order the book from the HWG website, and it actually works…. Today we went to Bluebell Ridge to take some copies, and stopped to look at the kitties waiting for homes…. we gave them a picture of our Digby to give them hope….
     Have put loads of stuff on Ebay too – a while ago Philosopher found moths had eaten one of his jumpers – we never had moths in Brum, so I was worried, and got down all my precious vintage clothes that I have had for years but never wear. Better sold than eaten….
     Weather has been very windy, and we are told it is going to get more so tomorrow – we have to drive up to Beaconsfield Services on the M40 to collect Eve, who is coming down for her half-term visit.

Digby ‘helps’ with the Ebay selling….

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