In the Locked Room & Ghost Patrol Press Reviews
31 August 2012
'Ghost Patrol...Stuart MacRae’s three-hander about the scars of war, to a libretto by Louise Welsh, does everything modern opera is supposed to do: it asks questions, stirs the imagination, challenges complacency, grabs the heart. Oh, and it renews the art form, too. You come out feeling different – about love, life and death. And yet, despite such complexity of thought and feeling, MacRae and Welsh make opera seem simple: they get the essentials right…Matthew Richardson’s production turns a chamber setting into grand opera, virtuosically designed by Samal Blak and vividly acted by James McOran-Campbell, Nicholas Sharratt and Jane Harrington. Welsh’s harrowing story, summed up in the line “Only the dead have seen the end of war”, lays bare the lasting trauma of military action, which MacRae drapes in a score as sophisticated as it is soulful – beauty and pain indivisible’.
***** Financial Times
‘A double-bill of new operas by composers Huw Watkins and Stuart MacRae, as part of Scottish Opera’s co-commissioning scheme with Music Theatre Wales, made for a gripping experience at the Traverse. In In the Locked Room…Watkins’s score shifts between bustling and slow, jerky and angular to mysteriously reflective…it gains dramatic ground as the story unfolds…MacRae’s opera, with no-holds-barred libretto by Louise Welsh, is immediately exciting, making exacting and effective use of rhythm to portray the ugliness and trauma fo war…both scores benefit from excellent casts and dependable conducting from Michael Rafferty.’
‘Two new chamber operas, co-produced by Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales, deal with the claustrophobia of unhealthy relationships and stinted dreams…David Harsent’s text [for In the Locked Room] is an adaptation of a Thomas Hardy short story and is adeptly done, distilling Hardy’s themes into streamlined – and singable – dialogue…Huw Watkins’s well-judged music paints the characters with care and responds eagerly to the dialogue…The orchestration is transparent enough for the singers to be easily heard but keeps plenty of interest…Set in a chic but empty bar, the atmosphere [in Ghost Patrol] is oppressive and Stuart MacRae’s busy, murky score serves it well.’
*** The Herald.
‘The cool, lean libretto for In the Locked Room has been adapted by David Harsent from a short story by Thomas Hardy…but it is Huw Watkins’ score which brings it to dramatic life. Leanly but purposefully orchestrated, it is marked by a tensely repressed sensuality and som beautifully modulated vocal writing…thanks to the sustained and enmeshed economy and focus of the text and music, I was gripped throughout. Michael McCarthy’s lucid and supple production is expertly executed by the cast of four, and there’s an outstanding performance by that lovely young soprano Ruby Hughes as the wife…[Ghost Patrol is] Crisply staged by Matthew Richardson, the piece benefits from the committed performances of Jane Harrington, Nicholas Sharratt and James McOran-Campbell…Michael Rafferty conducts both scores with finesse, and the orchestral playing is of a high standard…this is a thought-provoking double bill of authentic musical quality.’
****In the Locked Room ***Ghost Patrol
The Daily Telegraph
‘There’s no spare flesh on [David] Harsent’s lapidary text, nor on [Huw] Watkins’s vocal writing: the textures he draws from the 14 instrumentalists in the pit have a Britten-like economy. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of music theatre, unfussily staged by [Michael] McCarthy with fine performances from Ruby Hughes as Ella, Hakan Vramsmo as Pascoe, Louise Winter as the randy owner of the house, and Paul Curievici as Ella’s money-obsessed husband…[In Ghost Patrol] The performances – James McOran-Campbell and Nicholas Sharratt play the ex-soldiers – are first-rate.’