Die Fledermaus (Tour – Manchester)
Compared to other productions which require subtitles even when sung in English every word is clear as a bell. As payback for being left to walk home drunk and dressed as a bat Dr Falke (Stephen Svanholm) tricks his friend von Eisenstein (Andy Morton) into attending a risqué party at the home of the outrageous Russian aristocrat, Prince Orlofsky(Simon Butteriss) knowing that the guests will include von Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde (Lisa Anne Robinson) and maid Adele (Helen Massey) wearing disguises.
Director and adaptor Jeff Clarke provides a script to which modern audiences can relate; so instead of being incarcerated von Eisenstein is sent to rehab. He does not, however, take the easy option of just using modern pop culture references to ensure relevance. The translation brims with quick–fire jokes that would not be out of place in Morecambe and Wise (asked if she is Russian Adele replies that she can stay all night). In-jokes abound including Gareth Dafydd Morris serenading a potential lover with an off-stage rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’. A success of the show is how it turns potential weaknesses into strengths. A lengthy pause necessitated by a scene change between the second and third acts is covered by Andy Morton and Philip Cox staggering into the audience and improvising dialogue in the most outrageous French accent since Inspector Clouseau.
The sets by Gabriella Csanyi-Wills are larger than life and so suit the production perfectly. Eisenstein’s apartment is decorated in a hyper-modern style that borders on vulgar. Orlofsky’s party is gloriously tacky complete with hideous polymer polar bears whilst Dr Falke’s rehab surgery on the other hand is a tasteful black and white affair. The main success, however, is the costumes with Lisa Anne Robinson in particular benefiting from some striking outfits.
Although the full lush effect of Johann Strauss’s magnificent music cannot be entirely captured by the seven piece group the power of hearing opera quality singing in such an intimate theatre is deeply moving.
Die Fledermaus tells us that the answer to life’s problems is ‘more champagne’. As far as I’m concerned the answer is more productions of this quality.