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Noye's Fludde (Southbank Centre)

Britten's magical community opera for (mainly) young performers makes a splash on London's South Bank

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The day after the world's scientists announced their latest findings on climate change proved perfect timing for Olivia Fuchs's eco-warrior Noye's Fludde, presented as a free promenade event in the South Bank Centre's Clore Ballroom.

The original Argo LP sleeve for Noye's Fludde
This is a great community enterprise, just the way Britten intended, with two adult singers (Terrence Den Dulk and Olivia Ray as Mr and Mrs Noye) and scores of children playing a staggering array of instruments and biblical characters. Even God is portrayed by a youngster (Piere Hamilton Forbes) in this updated version of Britten's opera, based on the Chester Miracle Play.

While Noye and his sons (Luke Gough, David Wynn-Evans and Jonathan Vining) prepare for the coming disaster, over in the pink zone his consumerist missus blithely swigs cocktails with her retinue of young gossips and scoffs at the concerns of the environmentalists. The modern parallels work perfectly and, for the aah factor, there's a charming train of little ones, each clutching a favourite stuffed toy, as they enter the ark as every animal under the sun (though not much of that about).

Although he tailored his scoring for a wide range of abilities, Britten produced a work of some sophistication and the orchestra, with various off-shoots dotted around the playing area, make magnificent sounds under Benjamin Ellin's baton. Possibly the amplification is a little heavy during 'Eternal Father', threatening to (forgive the pun) drown out the recorders.

There's something wonderfully poignant about God's final "my darling dear" and all the more so when delivered by a young lad. It wasn't just parents and grandparents who were welling up at the end. I enjoyed it so much I stayed for the second performance.

The project is a collaboration of a range of London music organisations, the SBC and the LPO under the banner of The Rest is Noise, a year-long exploration inspired by Alex Ross's book. There are two further performances of Noyes Fludde at 2.00pm and 4.00pm on Saturday 12 October. Admission is free.


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