To recap: Viviana Durante was one of the foremost interpreters of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s work. Now retired, she set up the Viviana Durante Company and set about unearthing some early MacMillian works. A first assemblage of nearly forgotten ballets at the Barbican last year was well received.
The current Wilton’s Music Hall residency was to be Viviana Durante Company’s second MacMillan project: a revival of his interpretation of Brecht/Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, which was last performed by the Royal Ballet in the early 1970s.
She assembled a stellar cast, starring the cabaret artist and Weimar specialist Meow Meow and the Royal Ballet Principal Laura Morera; and in the Wiltons Music Hall found a perfect setting for this 1930s cabaret-cum-morality tale.
The project was publicised – Culture Whisper billed it – but then Seven Deadly Sins was abruptly cancelled. Its hasty replacement is the awkwardly named THREE/8:38/SEVEN.
It’s roughly one hour of a disjointed and hard to qualify show. Three musicians – two pianists and a drummer – are placed on a raised platform upstage. It starts with an overture and four songs from Brecht/Weill’s perhaps best know work, Threepenny Opera – presumably the THREE of the title.
The songs are performed with gusto and not a little professionalism by five operatic singers: Stephen Anthony Brown, Timothy Dawkins, Charles Johnston, Wendy Dawn Thompson and Peter Van Hulle.
All return for final part of the show: a concert version of Brecht/Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins – the SEVEN of the Title.
The problem is twofold: firstly, that both Brecht/Weill works are stage works, the former described by their authors as ‘a play with words’, the latter a ‘ballet chanté,’ a ballet with songs. Neither gains from being sung dry, on a bare stage, with no props – on the contrary.
Secondly, these are works from Germany’s Weimar period, steeped in the decadence that pervaded the cabarets as Nazism raised its ugly head. One of their foremost interpreters was the great Lotte Lenya, the actress and cabaret singer par excellence. To have these songs performed by operatic voices divests them of all their intense hedonistic wistfulness.
In between, inexplicably, there’s a danced interlude especially commissioned from choreographer Javier de Frutos. Two studio barres are placed on the stage and on walk Viviana Durante, on her return to the stage after retirement in 2013, and Mbuelo Ndabeni. Both are in grey practice costumes, not exactly drab, but not really in keeping with what should be the cabaret overtones of the evening.
Their first piece, a playful take on ballet dancers’ barre work is danced - really incongruously – to part of a Bach Oboe Concerto; the second, more relevantly, to a recording of Kurt Weill’s September Song by Lotte Lenya, showing how it’s done.
As SEVEN drags on, the nagging ‘why? oh why?’ pushes itself inexorably to the forefront of your mind; confirming, if confirmation were needed, that the starting point for any good show is a coherent concept that draws the audience in and holds it. THREE/3:38/SEVEN lacks one, and so it does neither.
Gala Night Thursday 16th May
Best seats in the house followed by prohibition cocktails and Weimar music with Viviana Durante and members of the cast: £95.
|What||THREE/3:38/SEVEN, Wilton's Review|
|Where||Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Aldgate East (underground)|
08 May 19 – 18 May 19, 19:45 Sat mat 16:00 Dur.: 1 hour 5 mins no interval
|Price||£12.50-£32.50 (concessions available)|
|Website||Click here to book|