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The Barber of Seville review at Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – ‘zany and entertaining’

With its mile-a-minute patter, and more visual gags than you can shake a tickling stick at – Imogen Garner’s Berta wields a duster just so – this Barber of Seville surely owes a debt to the late, great Ken Dodd [1].

There’s cartoonishness, too, in the skewed perspectives of Gary McCann’s cardboard cut-out set; a backdrop for crazy antics in flouncy period costumes (by Gabriella Ingram), pitched somewhere between music-hall, pantomime and classic Gilbert and Sullivan.

Whatever the inspiration, one feels Rossini would enjoy director Andrew Gallacher’s zany treatment of his celebrated opera buffa, revived by Brendan Wheatley for Swansea City Opera.

It’s a rough diamond of a production with no pretensions otherwise – and is highly entertaining; not least since the cast are well matched and have an easy comic rapport, supported by conductor John Beswick’s eight-piece Swansea City Opera Orchestra.

Performed with unselfconscious brio, the sometimes fluffed coloratura, dodgy orchestral intonation and general slipping on rhythmic bananas just adds to the puncturing of Bartolo’s pomposity; a star turn from Wheatley himself, matched in pace and presence by Annabella Ellis (a splendidly refusenik Rosina); Aidan Coburn (a winsome, boyish Almaviva); Paul Hudson (a ghastly, puffed and powdered Basilio) and, especially, by Hakan Vramsmo as a loveable, larger-than-life Figaro.

Many comic touches are missed if you blink, but – like Fiorello’s air-guitar mandolin (Mark Saberton) and Vramsmo’s actual guitar serenade, complete with Spanish rasgueado – are integral to the action.

Others – like the prancing choreography – just avoid crossing from slapstick to slapdash. But this is a show well worth seeing – and a company well worth supporting.

A zany, mile-a-minute rough-diamond production of Rossini’s opera

Production Information

The Barber of Seville
Borough Theatre
March 17, 2018
March 17, 2018, then touring
Andrew Gallacher, Brendan Wheatley (revival)
Gary McCann
James Thomas
Gabriella Ingram
Stage manager
James Thomas (technical and stage manager); Martin Quinn (assistant stage manager)
Cast includes
Hakan Vramsmo, Annabella Ellis, Aidan Coburn, Mark Saberton; Richard Hansen, David Fortey
Swansea City Opera
Running time