Carmen at King’s Head Theatre


‘Love will set you free’. It is a very bold statement to walk into, it is also a statement that poses many questions. The singular quote hung on the back wall throughout the entire performance and during my journey home I sat thinking about how much truth this quote had. When I looked back on the characters and their own personal journeys I was sad to find that love had actually not set either of the two protagonists free but in fact kept them trapped and almost suffocated until the tragic end.

The Kings Head Theatre is currently hosting the interesting, modern English production of Bizet’s classic opera ‘Carmen’. The four act tragedy tells us about the toxic love triangle between Carmen, Jose and Escamillio but this time set in the London of today.

At this performance, Carmen was played by Jane Monrari and believe me when I say that the mezzo-soprano definitely did not lack any umph vocally, every song was executed with perfection – her voice was truly sublime. Saying this, I found her acting to be a little inconsistent emotionally so I found myself looking to Jose, Mike Bradley and Escamillio, Dan DeSouza, in order for me to feel something, anything. Both of the men equally excelled with their vocals which was music to my ears and Bradley worked his socks of to produce a highly dramatic performance, bravo. DeSouza, who actually took on the smallest role, stole the show completely for me. Every time he entered the playing space he had an ability to add humour, dramatic emotion and even spark an exciting chemistry with Monrari effortlessly, which left me wanting more and more each time.

Going back to the music… the accompaniment for this show was full of passion and drama perfectly played by Juliane Gallant and David Eaton. I even occasionally found myself solely focused on the musical delivery and being completely captured for some time which meant I had been stolen away from watching the opera itself to watch what was happening on the side lines. Pure magic.

Each act is set in a different location which helps move the story forward to its climax. Between acts 1-2 and 3-4 there is a complete set and Carmen costume change that is completed by the cast members and musicians with such patience and ease, allowing the audience to believe that they were still watching the story unravel. A very brave yet clever choice from director Mary Franklin.

The entire show is definitely different to any other version of this classic and in my own personal opinion this English adaptation unfortnately was not my cup of tea. Saying that, I do urge you to go and see this production purely to witness the outstanding talent and skill of everyone involved.

Review by Laura Whittingham

Carmen is playing at the Kings Head Theatre until the 9th March. To book tickets and find out more visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Notre Dame De Paris, The Band and Avenue Q.

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