The story of a young woman in a miserable marriage who pursues a doomed romance with another man, this new adaptation of Leoš Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová is a gorgeously-designed piece of theatre. The musical performances are emotional and provocative, and the show itself manages to more or less control the relentless pacing of the story as it races towards its inevitable conclusion.
Laura Wilde is undeniably the star of the show, portraying the eponymous Kátya with care and an affecting vulnerability. The conflicting desires that drive her towards reckless, but honest, passions are clearly conveyed. The frustration with her waning marriage, her fierce, traditionalist mother-in-law, and her desire for a more fulfilling life are all motivations that are understandable, and do not alienate her from the audience.
Patricia Bardon as Kabanicha is also a commanding presence on the stage, both acerbic and iconic as she demands obedience and attempts to mould the world around her to her own design. The implied incestuous relationship between her and her own son (played by Samuel Sakker) only emphasises her evil, so much so that the audience booed her during the final bows. The chemistry between the actors is palatable, and as a collective ensemble they really shine.
The set design (by Leslie Travers) is atmospheric and affecting. It’s a dried-up river bed over which a rusted iron bridge swings up and down, looming over the distrusting world below. Moody and oppressive, it also allows for a more dynamic atmosphere as people are constantly racing around.
The show seems to slow down towards the end and lacks a good sense of resolution. The final act, which attempts to build up towards a tense climax, unfortunately becomes repetitive and stagnant as Kátya decides how to deal with mounting pressure. Nevertheless, this opera is performed with an expert cast, and the additional presence of the set makes for an enjoyable story and atmosphere.
PHOTOS: James Glossop