Music: The Madness Game, Bierkeller Theatre

Tonight I was delighted to have been invited by a friend to Little Room Productions's latest showcase of operatic talent in Bristol. We enjoyed the world premieres of two operas in the gorgeously sticky-shabby setting of the Bierkeller Theatre just off Nelson Street in Bristol.

Matthew Olyver's The Boar's Head is a tale of repression, desire and heartache set in the bar of a pub – all destructive emotions set to an exquisitely controlled score for string quartet. There were moments of utter clarity and space, but the piece felt a little under-prepared and poorly paced as a whole.

After the interval though, Jacob Bright's The Madness Game utterly blew me away. Directed by Charis Lawry-White who called for a refreshingly sparse backdrop and striking use of lighting, the opera was scored for string quartet as well. Featuring powerful performances from Jack Hamilton, Edmund Danon and Laura Curry as a psychiatric patient, his warden and a psychotherapist (respectively) embroiled in the politics, plots, and fears of an asylum, the libretto (by Harry Benfield) and music are perfectly balanced to result in a piece that is clever, witty and self aware. The fine line between sanity and its opposite, and the foundations of reason are well and truly tested by the plot: this is a succinct analysis of the inescapable essence of fragility in the human condition, and it is stunning stuff that leaves your mind reeling.

The Madness Game | Photo: Little Room Productions/promotional



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