Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Brighton Festival: El Gallo review at Corn Exchange Brighton Dome

by -

The international festival circuit is full of shows of a particular genetic make-up, with a visual and/or aural component that transcends language and geographical barriers and borders. There’s a danger, of course, that such shows inhabit a generic world instead – but Mexican company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes have fashioned something that can speak to artists everywhere.

Their show El Gallo is about the struggle to put on a difficult new opera. But if it speaks to artists everywhere, does it also speak to audiences everywhere? On that score (and of its musical score), I am more doubtful. There’s a tendency with this kind of naval-gazing theatre for an audience to simply shrug and say, ‘Who cares? No one asked you to do it.’

But if, like me, you thrill to shows such as Philip Glass’ Sanskrit opera Satyagraha and wonder how on earth a company like English National Opera ever wrestled with its demands, this show offers a glimpse of what it might have been like backstage. And as this company of six singers fights British composer Paul Barker’s insistent, occasionally beautiful score to the ground – and at some points is taken down with it, in every sense – I was drawn into its occasionally baffling but atmospheric world.

With a live, eight-piece string orchestra joining the singers on a bare stage, there’s a long delay as an elevated performance platform is clumsily put into place for the climax of the piece, destroying the improvisational atmosphere that preceded it.

Production Information

Corn Exchange, Brighton Dome, May 28-29

Claudio Valdes Kuri, Paul Barker
Claudio Valdes Kuri
Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes
Itzia Zeron, Irene Akiko Iida, Fabrina Melon, Edwin Calderon, Kaveh Parmas, Ernesto Gomez Santana
Running time
1HR 20mins

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price