Vagabones – Civic Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
Run now finished – 6 – 7 September // 8pm
The libretto by Renate Debrun is based on the play by Emma Donoghue called Trespsses. It recounts events in 1660/61 in Youghal, County Cork leading up to the trial of Florence Newton (Carolyn Holt), a sixty-five year old spinster, for witchcraft. She had an altercation with a young woman, Mary Longdon (Sarah Power), and a few days later she encountered her on the street and kissed her on the cheek wishing to let bygones be bygones. Shortly afterwards Mary saw a little old man at the end of her bed whom she thought was a spirit. He tempted her with a promise that if she followed his advice she would have everything she desired. She replied her trust was in the Lord. A month later Mary was convulsed by severe fits and convulsions with extraordinary physical manifestations. Florence was accused of bewitching Mary and placed in jail.
After a short prologue in a cemetery sung by Mary, the story begins in the jail with Florence and another prisoner Donal O’Dare (Kelli-Ann Masterson), a convicted thief, discussing their fate. He had stolen a salmon from John Pyne (Ross Scanlon), a bailiff, and the employer of Mary. His intentions towards Mary extend beyond that of a mere employer. The good people of Youghal are personified in the character of one Valentine Greatrakes (Rory Dunn) while civic authority is represented by the Mayor of Youghal (Rory Musgrave).
The set consists of a floor to ceiling back wall, in various sombre colours which create a sense of oppression. There is a hidden doorway and halfway up the wall there is a hatch which allows various pictures to be projected which adds ambience to the story being told. The location of each scene is projected onto the wall in contemporary seventeenth century script. This is necessary as apart from the prison cell other locations are John Pyne’s house, the Street and the Mayor’s office.
The opera is sung in English. It describes various oppressive aspects of the society. There is little physical action to be seen. An understanding of the words being sung is therefore important. Sur titles would make this task easier. Crash Ensemble comprised of thirteen musicians conducted by Sinead Hayes provides the orchestra.
The piece lasts an hour and a half without an interval. Throughout there is a high competence in the singing and the orchestra plays with confidence. But the story as told lacks sufficient variety to make it a drama which grips the attention, perhaps it is too cerebral.
Opera Collective Ireland presents the World Prèmiere of ‘Vagabones’- A new opera by Raymond Deane
Based on the play Trespasses by Emma Donoguhe