Troy Boy - Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s adaptation of Offenbach’s fruity romp, La Belle Helene, opened in a suitably camp fashion last week at The Gatehouse, Highgate. Pub opera seems to be all the rage these days, but in order for it to make its mark it has to be done well. Troy Boy is the work of the Merry Opera Company, founded by Matthew Quirk, having created the company ‘to perform shows that would keep him awake’. Well there was no chance of nodding off in this show – if there’s one downside to Troy Boy it’s the in-your-face operatic voices performing at full pelt a mere whisker away from you face. Immediacy, yes – but at times it was unrelenting.
But given the overall exuberance of the cast, the clever re-working of the original and some standout performances, Troy Boy is without a doubt a well-deserved success for this fledgling company. Music director Stephen Hose at the piano, supported by a quartet of instrumentalists, kept things bubbling along nicely whilst Hesketh-Harvey’s staging, beginning with the bored Helen at her local Greek taverna, and ending with a brilliant ‘morning-after-the-night-before’ finale outside a club in Faliraki, never lets the attention flag for a moment.
As Helen Rosalind Coad caught the character’s ennui to perfection and although she had difficulty in getting some of the words across sang thrillingly all evening. Anthony Flaum was a swaggering presence as Orestes, Robin Bailey produced some virile singing as Achilles and Christopher Diffey was a winning Paris. All the cast threw themselves whole-heartedly into the show and it has to be said it had about a thousand times more theatrical life than Mike Figgis’ staging of Lucrezia Borgia for ENO the week before, so if you’re looking for something different to do, then give Troy Boy a whirl and transport yourself to the sun-baked slopes of Mount Olympus for a couple of hours. It certainly beats a wet and miserable London!
Troy Boy runs from Wed 9 February to Sat 5 March 2010. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, The Gatehouse Pub, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD. Box Office: 020 8340 3488.