Review: ‘Love From Carmen’

Chickenshed puts a modern twist on an opera classic, writes James Cracknell

Don Jose, Carmen and Escamilo in Love From Carmen (credit Chickenshed)
Don Jose, Carmen and Escamilo in Love From Carmen (credit Chickenshed)

If the aim of Chickenshed’s spring show Love From Carmen was to introduce opera to new audiences, it certainly worked.

I for one had never seen an opera before going along to the final night of the Southgate theatre’s take on a 19th Century classic.

None of the things that had put me off going to an opera – indecipherable lyrics, overly long running times, expensive tickets – were in evidence for Love From Carmen. In fact, it almost turned the whole genre on its head, introducing rap, breakdancing and other modern elements that made it a fun, accessible show throughout.

The classic score from Bizet’s original was still there, but with a fresh twist. As executive director Paul Morrall noted in the programme: “Chickenshed has created Love From Carmen as a different take on Carmen the opera in an attempt to open up the music and story to new audiences – including those who might feel alienated or excluded from Carmen as an operatic experience.”

Well, job done!

The story is set in a refugee camp with a “rebellious circus” that brings hope to the people stuck living there, before the famous love triangle takes centre stage.

Bethany Hamlin is excellent in the title role, even showcasing her circus skills in the final act, while the supporting cast is, as ever, incredibly diverse. The choreography is enthralling throughout and the dramatic final scene is cleverly done.

This is Chickenshed’s 50th anniversary year and the charity is putting on a wide and varied programme of performances throughout 2024. Love From Carmen may well be brought back later if the demand is there – so if you haven’t had a chance to see it, perhaps write in and make your demand known!

For more information about Chickenshed:
[email protected]

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