Dido and Aeneas – Edinburgh Studio Opera

Transporting the Roman tragedy to a modern world, this re-imagining of the classic tale is as tragic as the original, and is a cautionary story about jealousy and betrayal.

It is early morning, and Dido has to make a decision: to marry Aeneas, an egotistical, lustful movie star, or to reveal her secret relationship with a woman called Belinda. When she eventually bends to media pressure, Belinda forms a blood pact with witches to ensure her love rival’s downfall, however her envy ends up killing her love and eventually herself. From the beginning it is clear that this story only seems to borrow the names from the original mythos, and while this makes the title confusing due to Aeneas somewhat non-existent and unimportant part in the story, it is still a compelling and unique narrative.

The main cast is strong, headed by Freya Holliman and Sally Carr who effortlessly command the audience’s attention. Their chemistry appears authentic, and Belinda’s story is made especially sympathetic through Carr’s touching and desperate performance which adds nuance to an arguably morally ambiguous character. However, the lack of diction in the singing overall meant that I was having to consult the programme to follow the storyline, and heavily depended on the visual aspects of the performance.

The strongest aspect of the production is definitely its colourful chorus. The voices of the chorus reverberate through the old hall, equal parts angelic and manic, with the actors whirling around in rushes of rainbow taffeta. The atmosphere created is energetic and delightful, and Robert Hersey’s direction and choreography helps to emphasise the parts of the stories that are lost in the somewhat warbled sung dialogue. Stand-out scenes include Dido watching, heartbroken, a party from afar that is made of shadows and light, and Belinda’s encounter with the witch pack.

This production is simple and heartfelt, and invites the audience to connect with a new and moving story. The cast are energetic and impressive, and was overall a treat for a winter’s evening. Unfortunately, the second half of the double bill put on by the company, ‘Gianni Schicchi’ was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. However, if this production is anything to go by, it is sure to be similarly fantastic.

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Zoe Robertson

Literature student at The University of Edinburgh and theatre maker. Interested in new writing and voices. @weregoth_ on Twitter

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