The hidden world of women

Anon

Welsh National Opera

midland arts centre

****

IN A taut 40 minutes this new opera created by composer Errollyn Wallen manages to cover a massive range of issues.

It begins with two women sitting having a chat about women in the past and women today. When one (Shin-Fei Chen) naively says women today have it easier, the other (Ronke Adekoluejo) is quick to contradict.

And in a kaleidoscope journey the two women see just how bad it can get. Scenes of prostitution sit next to drug addiction, family murders are alongside girls on the run and addiction nudges up to hopelessness.

What is particularly depressing is that the women don't even receive help from each other – we see 'friends' gossiping maliciously and, in a particularly ominous classroom scene, girls vie to claim the ambition of being 'famous'.

It's a dark world that is being painted – and the fact that all of the women are anonymous, sliding from one role to another, aims to make this a universal truth.

Sara Lian Owen is one of the sopranos giving strong performances. Pictures: Brian Tarr

Wallen's inspiration came from the Abbé Prevost novel Manon Lescaut which has formed the basis of a number of plays and operas. Working with Sampad South Asian Arts, she then interviewed girls in local colleges and sex workers to bring the story up to date.

And the fact that so many of these storylines and much of the libretto came from those interviews makes this all the more shocking. Is this really the life of women today?

Performance are strong with sopranos Joanna Foote, Sara Lian Owen and Claire Wild weaving the song and story along with the two actors, all moving seamlessly from one tale to another. There is also a powerful score played by musicians Stuart Wild, Joseph Spooner and James Gambold.

Directed by Wils Wilson, it may be short but Anon certainly packs a punch. Staged in the Foyle Studio at mac, the space it close and almost claustrophobic at times as the drama takes us into tight spaces – physically, emotionally and mentally.

It's not easy viewing but Anon certainly nails its colours to the wall and is an important piece of modern theatre which will hopefully be produced elsewhere in the future.

Diane Parkes

mac - www.macarts.co.uk  WNO -www.wno.org.uk 

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