Posts Tagged ‘The Messiah’

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is cornering the market in biographical plays with music about musicians. First Thomas Tallis (back later in the year), then Farinelli (transferring to the West End), now Nick Drake’s play about the birth of Handel’s Messiah, and it’s lovely.

The play takes us from Handel’s receipt of the libretto from his regular partner Charles Jennens (who seems to have conceived it), through his trip to Dublin (escaping the poor reception of his last opera in London), meeting the sister of rival composer Thomas (Rule Britannia) Arne and ‘casting’ her in The Messiah despite the fact she was more of an actor than a singer, to the successful Dublin première of his masterpiece. It’s all presided over by Crazy Crow, a porter by day and a body-snatcher by night, who acts as a narrator.

It’s a surprisingly light and humorous affair, though that takes nothing away from the quality of the storytelling; indeed it adds to it. The addition of Handel’s uplifting music, beautifully played by a five-piece ensemble under Chad Kelly and beautifully sung by a small choir of ten (benefiting from both the intimacy and the acoustic of the SWP), casts a wonderful spell over the whole thing and makes it even more captivating. David Horovitch is great as a somewhat grumpy Handel with Kelly Price very good as actress / singer Susannah Ciber. Sean Campion is the comic heart of the play as Crazy Crow (and others, including Jennens) a role which glues the play together.

It was ever such a short run, only a handful of performances; surely like the others it it must return or transfer.

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