The Wasp Factory


(Picture c/o Royal Opera House website)

This week I was back at home in London following a week off to recover from illness. I tried very hard to schedule in a minimum of work but still seem to be out of the house most days! By far the best thing I have done this week was see the recent production of ‘The Wasp Factory’ at the Royal Opera House and is an adaptation of the book of the same name by the late, wonderful Iain Banks. I’m normally very critical and am rarely “blown away” by anything, whether it’s art, music, theatre, games, books etc. ‘The Wasp Factory’ is one of my favourite books and of the few books that has “blown me away” but given that large amounts of the book are long anecdotes retold by Frank, the unreliable first person narrator, I was skeptical as to how well the book could be adapted for the stage.

However, I thought ‘The Wasp Factory’ was astoundingly good and I can’t remember the last time I felt such an impact from a show. Bold, striking, brave, innovative and extremely powerful, I spent the entire performance entranced and barely able to process what I was seeing. After the show had finished I just felt an overwhelming ache and numb shock; how can I make performances like that? How can I be in that show? Where can I learn to do that? I should have liked to have seen it on an even bigger stage with the orchestra hidden, projected backgrounds and a longer, more violent ending – but it was still completely magical.

It’s very rare for me to feel that kind of kinship with a work. I often think that’s why I create songs and music and concerts; because the ideas I have in my head so rarely exist in the physical world. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot I enjoy, but it’s so rare for me to find something that just chimes with my own ideas and feelings.

Matilda The Musical

Last Wednesday (as mentioned in my previous post) I went to see Matilda The Musical with my Mum. The show has been really well-received in the UK and recently opened to rave reviews on Broadway. I’ve studied musical theatre since I was young, and during university was focused mainly on contemporary musical theatre, especially trends and traditions in musical theatre singing (spot the essay title…).

I can see why Matilda is getting such great reviews. I personally found most of the music functional rather than fantastic (apart from a couple of standout tracks) but the playful, cheeky score does fit the tone of the show even if it’s not especially groundbreaking. I’d be interested in future Tim Minchin scores to see how he progresses as a composer. My favourite aspect was the ingenious set, which was used thematically throughout and really felt as though it had been ingrained in the development of the show. I also really enjoyed the choreography, which showed influences from contemporary ballet and was at times very surreal, something I wasn’t expecting from a commercial West End production. In the linked video to “Naughty” above you can see a brief example of the choreography – the actresses playing Matilda really reminded me of Quentin Blake’s iconic drawings with their jerky little arm movements.