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Silent Opera’s Vixen review at the Vaults, London – ‘bold, unsettling, riveting’

Silent Opera's Vixen at the Vaults, London. Photo: Robert Workman Silent Opera's Vixen at the Vaults, London. Photo: Robert Workman

Viewed by some as the most crusty of art forms, opera has occasionally tried too hard to reinvent itself, to be ‘relevant’, to appeal to new audiences. But the results don’t always come off.

A lot of effort has been put into Silent Opera’s reimagining of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen. The tale may have originated in a newspaper strip cartoon, but it contains themes of mistrust and survival, and it explores the antagonism between sexual exploitation and awakening, and the relationship between love, desire, power and possession. The Vixen may be wily and worldly wise, but ultimately she fails to dodge the Poacher’s bullet. In many ways, the perfect operatic heroine.

In the Silent Opera treatment the audience moves with the cast around the vaulted theatre spaces beneath Waterloo station. Through wireless headphones we hear live singing and ensemble playing mixed with an electronic rearrangement of the orchestral score.

The underground setting aptly conveys an impression of life on the street, with danger lurking around every corner, but just as striking is the sheer talent and can-do energy of the entire cast. Most of them play as well as sing, always with conviction. Ivan Ludlow shines as the idealistic Forester, Robin Bailey exudes charm as the Fox and Rosie Lomas is simply magnetic as the Vixen.

Director Daisy Evans exploits the physical setting by drawing out acting that is naturalistic and riveting, and storytelling of remorseless impact. This may not be for Janacek purists, but it’s without doubt a bold and deeply immersive experience.

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Bold and often unsettling, a production enhanced by its underground venue and a brazenly talented cast