Blue Electric/Einstein’s Dreams/Nibiru! review at RADA studios – ‘some strong ideas’
The one thing you can be sure of with a Tete a Tete triple bill is unpredictability. And yet on this occasion the high of bewilderment experienced at the end is tempered by deep frustration.
Blue Electric is the most recognisably operatic of the pieces, a setting by Tom Smail of words drawn from Major/Minor, the family memoir written by his wife, Alba Arikha. We see Alba, as an unhappy schoolgirl, teased by her peers and smothered by a domineering father, a respected artist and Holoaust survivor with haunted dreams. Mimi Doulton and Jonathan Brown sing vibrantly and bring character-depth to the roles of Alba and her father respectively – but even accounting for a broader dramatic arc (this performance features only the first four scenes of the planned work), the libretto is often too prosaic and lacking in drama to support Smail’s texturally complex, post-Romantic score.
The framing device of Einstein’s Dreams, based on Alan Lightman’s novel – readings of fictional letters in which Einstein describes his dreams about the nature of time – is the most successful of the three. The enacted scenes, though, are often so wooden as to verge on parody, and the ballad-like music by Guy Harries is unforgivably thin on substance, with weakly generic piano accompaniment. Despite this, Norman Welch (also the librettist), narrates atmospherically.
Featuring a varied cast of volunteers, Nibiru! (the name of a planet that is hurtling to Earth and about to wipe out mankind) is a techno-pocalyptic party. A video screen carries news reports and updates on big corporations. A single episode from the piece is enough to relay its tone: that of a man shouting the Cadbury’s Flake TV advert tune, while groping a cardboard cut-out of the Queen, as another cast member tap-dances in the background. It’s an absurdist, protest-led piece that generates a unique, anarchic energy.
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.