Wagner’s Ring Cycle is the basis for Liveartshow’s Rhinegold, a retelling of the first of his four epic operas in which the Viking gods Wotan (James French) and Fricka (Rachael Handshaw) find themselves unable to pay giants Fafner and Fasholt for building their home. As a short term measure, Wotan arranges for the builders to accept Fricka’s sister Freia - goddess of youth, beauty and feminine love - as payment, before seeking out a more permanent way to settle the debt in the form of a magical ring, currently in the hands of a dwarf named Alberich.
Under librettist Alan Harris and director Martin Constantine, the story has been brought into the modern world and as such, the methods used to tell the narrative are vastly different from anything Wagner could have imagined; video merges seamlessly with a pulsating techno and voice-enhanced soundtrack to create a creepy and disconcerting experience that dares you to look away yet compels you to keep watching.
It’s by no means perfect with the dialogue a tad simplistic and the plot rather difficult to follow, but with light moments of humour and the sound design of Tom Gibbons, the end result is never boring, most notable in a standout sequence where Alberich (Nick Figgis) composes a throbbing beat using a variety of amplifiers.
The use of the space is intriguing - just three large wooden crates are placed in the back corner - making for a sparse and somewhat empty emotional connection with the material, although it effectively distances the fantastical story from reality.
Virginia Scudeletti is the undoubted standout amongst the cast as the Rhine maiden, Woglinda. Although a small role contextually, Scudeletti remains onstage throughout, dancing in a mesmerising manner that threatens to overshadow other events around her, but thankfully never quite overstepping the mark.
Despite the good work in the acting, where all involved are strong, this is not the true reason to seek out Rhinegold. If one appreciates an incredible use of sound and composition then it's Harry Blake’s score that is the real attraction, fluctuating between more traditional sounds and more technological reverberations that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.