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A CurtainUp London Review
The Enchanted Pig
The tale is based on a folk tale from Romania for which Alasdair Middleton has written an original and inventive libretto. King Hildebrand (John Rawnsley) has forbidden his three daughters to enter a locked room and like all girls with curiosity and initiative they unlock it and discover the Book of Fate, which predicts that two of the princesses will marry handsome kings, but that the youngest Flora must wed a fat pig from the North. The Pig is a pig by day but a handsome man by night because of a witch's spell. Flora's groom is kidnapped by The Old Woman (Nuala Willis) with a view to his marrying her daughter Adelaide (Kate Chapman) and to rescue him Flora has to wear out three pairs of shoes made of iron by travelling round the world. On this journey she meets the North Winds (John Rawnsley and Nuala Willis), the Sun (Delroy Atkinson) and the Moon (Joshua Dallas). You see Flora has fallen in love with The Pig (Rodney Clarke/Byron Watson) and she seems to quite enjoy frolicking in their bed of mud.
The opera is designed by Dick Bird with a creative wit which allows the princesses to have high coiffures like swirling ice cream cones trimmed with Burberry ribbon and The Pig to be a vision of pigskin and porcine references. Flora is enabled to fly on wires and the characterisation of the North Winds as an old settled but verbally sparring couple is interesting. John Fulljames, director of The Opera Group who have jointly produced The Enchanted Pig with The Young Vic, has given us a production that is never static.
The singing is exquisite and Caryl Hughes has a very large part as Flora. She is rarely off stage, except of course when she is flying over it! Rodney Clarke has great stage presence and a beautiful voice and Akiya Henry is always fun to watch and easy to listen to. Alasdair Middleton's libretto is full of clarity and has moments of comic genius like the song of the North Winds about the realities of a loving household with her false teeth and his hairy back. The ending is happy although I think we would all have preferred hearing about the fun in the mud, "A lovely pool of bubbly mud. Churning, chestnut, chocolate pool; Thick, relaxing, tempting, cool — To quench the fires of swinish blood.
In case you think that someone has bewitched the Young Vic and rebuilt it as an opera house, I can report that the next four main house productions will all be plays or I might have to wear iron shoes!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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