REVIEW: The Elixir of Love (Kings Head Theatre) ★★★★★

Brilliant, beautiful and bloody funny – the King’s Head theatre have delivered a fantastic production, which rates as one of the best things I have seen this year.

Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisir D’Amore is transported from 18th century northern Spain to 1980s Barry Island and is delivered here as the Elixir of Love. I am assuming, given the liberal use of expletives, that it is not a literal translation from the Italian original!

Nicky spends his days in Adina’s café, smitten by the owner and attempting to pluck up the courage to declare his love to her while ordering endless cups of coffee. Adina is hoping for romance and excitement and is certain that Nicky does not fit the bill.

In desperation, Nicky turns to travelling salesman “Doctor” Dulcamara who sells him an attraction potion which he guarantees will work in 24 hours. When Adina’s school paramour, Brandon, arrives on shore leave from the navy, Nicky needs something faster acting and Dulcamara sells him the elixir of love.

This production offers everything you could want in a show – drama, betrayal, a love triangle, misunderstandings, beautiful singing and comedy – lots of comedy. At a tight one hour and 40 minutes including an interval this is a fast paced, funny, heart-warming show.

The cast, Alys Roberts as Adina, David Powton as Nicky, Themba Mvula as Brandon and Caroline Taylor as Gina, Adina’s friend are all absolutely superb, their voices are stunning and they blend brilliantly; but it is Matthew Kellet as slimy salesman Dulcamara who completely steals the show.

The King’s Head is a tiny theatre at the back of a pub. The staging for this show has the audience in a triangle with the stage in the centre. For the first act the stage is set as Adina’s café with a few tables, a counter and a coffee machine. The second act is just a (very wobbly) park bench. The actors make fantastic use of the limited space. The only musician is David Eaton playing the piano and it is quite extraordinary that the music is so stunning and rich with just one piano and 5 voices. It is a triumph.

For anyone who thinks that opera is not for them or that it is too “high-brow” an art form this is the perfect show. I left the theatre with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Who knew that opera could be so funny? Brilliant – just brilliant.

Reviewed by Emma Heath
Photo: Bill Knight

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