Opera on the Run – The Perfect Picnic

“The Perfect Picnic”
A new entertainment by Ian Bloomfield and Tim Armstrong-Taylor, set to music by Mozart: excerpts from Così fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute

Rachael Sterling – Cheryl Enever
Michael de Haughton Tours – Ian Bloomfield
Sarah Primrose – Lynn Marie Boudreau
David Sterling – Tim Armstrong-Taylor
Puck – Clare Kinson

Kelvin Lim (piano)

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 15 January, 2008
Venue: Jermyn Street Theatre, London

Opera on the Run is a group of singers and musicians who, apart from performing their own ‘operas’, also appear at corporate functions, private parties and launches, in operatic acts with singing waiters and waitresses, singing policemen and singing paramedics. In Operatic Infiltration they appear amongst your guests and suddenly burst into song, while their Spaghetti Opera programme has been performed in over forty UK venues. A Comedy of Arias was a great success in Edinburgh and the Spaghetti Opera and Perfect Picnic shows are currently touring.

“A Perfect Picnic” has a new libretto sung to musical extracts from Mozart operas. The plot is, like most Mozart comic operas, essentially very silly. David is an out-of-work accountant who suddenly receives tickets to an opera performance in the country. He and his girlfriend, Sarah, decide to go, not knowing that the leading diva in the production is David’s ex-wife Rachael. David would rather stay at home (“It is an evening of opera after all / And I prefer the interval”), and he still hasn’t mentioned the redundancy. Meanwhile, Rachael is getting nervous about her performance (“My throat will start to tighten / And I’ll sing like Sarah Brightman”). Furthermore, she’s not feeling too happy about her boyfriend Michael, a flashy TV designer.

On the journey to the opera gala, the couples meet on the motorway, David and Sarah in a clapped-out Sierra, Michael and Rachael in a luxury sports car. They then meet on a picnic in the park and – very Mozart – start to swap partners. Rachael wants to get back with David and encourages him to be the budding artist he once was, while Sarah is flattered by the attention given her by Michael. The inevitable happens, partners are swapped without rancour – and it all happens during the interval of the opera.

We don’t get to see or hear much of the opera itself, as the two couples are too busy chasing each other in punts. For the most part, this is an amusing and deftly handled evening with virtually no scenery: the only prop is the picnic hamper! You will just have to imagine what they do to recreate punting, and it works. Ian Bloomfield and Tim Armstrong-Taylor have devised a Mozartean ‘situation’ but made it very British. Some of the dialogue and the arias are incisive and witty. They may be the stuff of doggerel but they are highly comical: “She fills me with a passion / That’s going out of fashion”, or “I adore her rosy lips and she has child-bearing hips”, or “I must not revolt her / You’re the one that I want, but I sound like John Travolta.” Apart from the four leads, who all have good voices, there is a Puck figure played by Clare Kinson who comes on as various chorus members such as a policeman and a waitress, and a nurse who resembles one of Julie Walters’s caricatures to explain that Fate has brought them together.

This is a very likeable show that should give pleasure to many – particularly those who are not enamoured to go to a Mozart opera. As well as being a jolly entity in itself, it might even convert a few punters into giving opera a chance. At just forty minutes each side of the interval, this is indeed not only a ‘perfect picnic’ but also a perfect introduction to what opera is all about.

  • The Perfect Picnic is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 2 February
  • Box office on 020 7287 2875
  • Opera on the Run

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