It's interesting to imagine how a series of opera shorts based on the figures found on tarot cards could play out. This is what made Little Room Productions opera company's Arcana immediately intriguing to me.
A collection of ten short scenes exploring the human psyche which included 'The Devil', 'The Hanged Man' and 'The Sun', Arcana delved into the deepest of human struggles. Specially commissioned pieces of modern opera by young composers articulated complex emotions, from fear and addiction to plain indifference, and were framed by a thought-provoking monologue given in a rather rudimentary performance by Harry Benfield.
Highlights in the series included Chris Pelmore's witty performance in 'Temperance' – "I just don't care" – and William Stevens's dark and broody exploration of all kinds of addiction in 'The Hanged Man.' Often the libretto referenced up to date cultural trends, like the proliferation of digital communication and technology – James Black and Harry Benfield's 'Strength', for example, featured a lone female protagonist (played somewhat unconvincingly by Marienella Phillips) whose experiences closely reflected those of gamer Anita Sarkeesian who received death threats and abuse after she called the industry out on sexism.
There were some interesting musical ideas, such Jacob Bright's use of an off-stage chorus to create a sense of space in the score for 'The Devil' – and profound points were touched on, but these were rarely realised convincing in the performances themselves.
If you like this, why not try:
• Music: The Madness Game, Bierkeller Theatre
• Theatre: London Road, Bristol Old Vic