Doomed love goes on an epic journey in Timothy Sheader’s sinuous and sophisticated take on Porgy and Bess
Published: 29 July 2014
Updated: 15:39, 29 July 2014
The musical has long been a highlight of each season at the Open Air Theatre and this year serves up another treat with artistic director Timothy Sheader’s sinuous and sophisticated production of Porgy and Bess. The parkland amphitheatre proves a gloriously atmospheric setting for George and Ira Gershwin’s 1935 “folk opera” about those titular doomed lovers, who are joined by the largest company of singers and musicians that Regent’s Park has ever seen.
The most striking aspect, initially at least, is Katrina Lindsay’s huge crushed bronze rumple of an abstract sculpture set. It glows warmly in the gloaming and is very beautiful, if not immediately evocative of Catfish Row, where the characters eke out a hardscrabble existence. Yet it chimes perfectly with Sheader’s slow-burn reading of the work, which tends to the impressionistic, suggesting the universality, rather than specificity, of Porgy and Bess’s tumultuous relationship.
Nicola Hughes excelled as Bess in Trevor Nunn’s 2006 production and she’s splendid all over again here as a woman torn by conflicting desires in a small community where drugs and drink battle for supremacy with the word of the Lord. Rufus Bonds Jr gives Porgy a battered decency and the pair are confidently grounded in a supremely tuneful ensemble who achieve moments of real grandeur in the second half. A storm is thrillingly evoked by the twirling of a dozen scruffy coloured chairs. It may be summer but the living isn’t easy.
Until Aug 23 (0844 826 4242, openairtheatre.com)