Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Turnage Greek - back with a vengeance

Mark Anthony Turnage's Greek hits the streets again. Thursday it's at the Cheltenham Festival as part of a tour. It's Turnage's first opera, written at the age of 28 when he was mean, lean and thornily edgy (and maybe still is). Good pedigree - it was commissioned by Hans Werner Henze, no less, for the Munich Bienniale. Henze taught Turnage briefly so knew what he was letting himself in for. Greek, in typical punchy Turnage mode, is based on the Stephen Berkoff hit play Oedipus the King, itself based on Greek legend.

This will be worth catching as it's produced by Music Theatre Wales. They're an innovative company, who achieve great results. Remember their In the Penal Colony (Philip Glass), at the Linbury Theatre, ROH,  last year ? (review HERE). Music, subject and staging drilled precisely  together, so painful it was almost impossible to watch. Which is what Kafka intended. Turnage, on the other hand, can be surprisingly lyrical sometimes, so don't be put off by image.

Greek was shocking in 1988/9 because it was a primal scream of protest. Those were the last, anguished years of Thatcherite Britain. The Oedipus story was a frame for rebellion. It wasn't coincidence that Thatcher's sex caused more resentment than any male politican might get. There have been far more unethical politicans since, but protest was/is curiously mute. Anyway, Greek is set in the urban jungle of East End London. Tough Eddy kills a man, marries his wife and takes over the pub (kingdom). Years later Eddy discovers that Wife is his long lost mother....  maybe 80's misogyny has deep roots.

HERE is a link to Music Theatre Wales's website where there a video about the production and lots more detail. "Turnage had no qualms in tearing up the rule book and producing a ground-breaking contemporary classic: an opera fizzing with high voltage energy and raw emotion."  If ENO really wanted to be radical, they'd could do worse than revive early Turnage.

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