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Borders by Henry Naylor: An Intensely Compelling Look From Two Sides Of War – Adelaide Fringe Review
Festival Theatre, Sat 22 Aug.
As the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail” – a statement that could not be truer for State Opera of South Australia’s brilliant production of Gounod’s Faust. In faithfully recreating original director Sir David McVicar’s Covent Garden production, revival Director Bruno Ravella has maintained the amazing set designs and mix of singing and ballet performances that sets this Grand Opera apart from all others.
An epic in five acts, Faust is at its core a cautionary tale, its popularity grounded in the idea that there is potential for good and evil in all of us. Dual Helpmann Award winning tenor James Eggleston is wonderful in his vocal and physical portrayal of title character, Faust. In a nutshell, an elderly Dr Faust makes a deal with the devil – another shot at youth and all the hedonistic pleasures it brings – in exchange for his soul, of course. Enter the divine Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Satan’s messenger, Méphistophélès. Rhodes’ super rich bass baritone and imposing physical stature completely dominates – absolutely nailing a character that in this rendition, maintains an element of charm amidst the wickedness.
Revelling in his newfound vigour, and accompanied by the world’s best ‘wing man’, Faust seduces innocent maid Marguerite with more than a little help from Méphistophélès. Adelaide soprano Kate Ladner holds herself well in this challenging role, the Jewel aria a perfect showcase for her splendid vocals. Both Ladner and Eggleston bring to their roles fine acting skills on top of obvious vocal talent, each portraying characters who form and transform at emotionally and physically demanding levels.
Charles Edwards’ set designs are grandiose and combined with Paule Constable’s cleverly toned lighting design provide a perfect canvas upon which this story of one man’s descent into debauchery rests. Revival choreographer Shane Placentino leads a fabulous troupe of dancers, the famed Walpurgis Night ballet both mesmerising and repellent as we witness dancing demons intent on showing Faust the consequences of his bad behaviour. Conductor Kynan Johns and Chorus Master Timothy Sexton lead the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Opera Chorus respectively, creating a heavenly soundscape that awashes the senses at every turn.
Though it wouldn’t be right to encourage people to ‘sell their soul’ for tickets, this is a rare opportunity to enjoy this version of Faust and one that is hard to imagine missing. The seductive opulence of the music alone would be worth the price.
Rosie van Heerde
Faust continues at Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from at 7.30pm until Sat 29 Aug.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.