Opera Scotland

In the Locked Room 2012Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera In the Locked Room

This new 45-minute work was produced in a double bill with Ghost Patrol by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh. Loosely based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, An Imaginative Woman, it took a promising idea - a young woman bored by her financially successful husband, becomes obsessed by the idea of a mysterious poet, most of whose appearances are in her imagination rather than in the flesh. As with earlier work by Music Theatre Wales seen in Scotland, the forces used were of chamber dimensions, similar to Britten's requirements in The Turn of the Screw. Beautifully played under Michael Rafferty's baton, mention of Britten's masterpiece highlights what was missing from this new chamber drama.

The setting is a country house by the sea. A young couple, Stephen and Ella, rent a room where she will spend most of her time during the holidays. He will commute to the City, while remaining anchored to his mobile when in the country. Their middle-aged landlady, Susan, mentions The Locked Room - permanently rented by a poet who rarely puts in an appearance. Ella is already familiar with his work, but poetry of any kind is a foreign language to Stephen.

As the piece progresses, the absent Pascoe takes over Ella's imagination. When he does actually arrive for a brief visit to Susan, with whom he does have some kind of sporadic relationship in spite of his depressive tendencies, Ella is out for a walk and misses him. Left with only a signed volume of his poems to fuel her thoughts, she misleads Stephen into the belief that they had met, possibly rather more than that. As the months pass, we learn the poet has killed himself, and Stephen concludes that Ella is pregnant not by him, but by the deceased. His wife only encourages this misconception.

The brief span available was really not enough to allow for development of the required brooding atmosphere. The music was skilfully produced, without giving the characters any great individuality. Best of all were the performances. Louise Winter, known in Scotland more for her Mahler than her opera, made a warm, almost motherly figure of Susan. Paul Curievici used his excellent tenor effectively in a part which provided lots of brief appearances, all much the same. Ruby Hughes gave an excellent account of a completely unsympathetic part, bored, petulant, almost hysterical. The young Swedish baritone also made a strong impression, though the staging perhaps failed to differentiate adequately between his real and imaginary selves.

One scene gave a glimpse of what might have been done - Ella had a brief dialogue simultaneously with her husband and the figment of her imagination, her lines fitting easily into two conversations. It could have become an effective trio, or a scene from an Ayckbourn comedy, but did neither.

Performance DatesIn the Locked Room 2012

Map List

Traverse Theatre | Edinburgh

30 Aug, 20.00 1 Sep, 12.00 2 Sep, 15.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

6 Sep, 19.15 7 Sep, 19.15

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