Review of Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2013 events, Faust at the Forum, and Mariza at Theatre Royal.
After the mesmerising opening to NNF13 at Cathedral Close for Reve d’Herbert, I saw the street theatre production of Faust outside the Forum on Millennium Plain on Saturday afternoon. Brought to us by the Bad Taste Company this was to be a UK Premiere. This adaptation of the Goethe classic was set in a prohibition-era ‘speakeasy’. Set to thunderous and lively roaring twenties big band music, the theme of temptation was played out with some amazing dancing skills, fire acts with flaming cocktails and superb moments of Charleston and even breakdancing which delighted the large audience who occupied every space on the steps.
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of seeing fado legend Mariza at Theatre Royal. Having had tickets to see her at NNF11, she unfortunately had to cancel the date at that time due to some difficulties with her pregnancy. Happily all was OK, she had a healthy child and is newly married as she casually and informally explained to the adoring audience. She has a very powerful but easy stage presence, between songs chatting comfortably to the audience in English, and also in Portuguese for the sizable number of the audience from Portugal, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, which is the African country she shares heritage with through her mother.
Of course her biggest strength is her amazing voice, so pure, expressive, intense and passionate. I am not the biggest fan of seated venues, and being sat at the very back row it is all too easy to feel disengaged from a performance, however, she managed to connect and reach out to everyone present, even getting the audience to join in with some numbers, these moments always have the potential to be awkward but not in Mariza’s hands. Moving delicately to the music she looked stunning in an elegant long, sashaying dress. She has an extraordinarily talented band, and the stringed instruments were particularly impressive. There was one moment of drum solo which although also very impressive perhaps went on a bit too long as it was not especially in keeping with the mood of the evening. That’s a very minor quibble however, as it was a splendid night. On such a cold and blustery May evening, it is testament to Mariza that she managed to transport us all to balmy latin tavernas. The highlight for me was the song at the end which she and the band performed without p.a. As I mentioned, I was at the very back of the theatre but this song reached and touched me the most, and is surely the sign of a very special and talented performer. Of course she received a rapturous and thunderous standing ovation as the audience demanded an encore.
The support on the evening came from Glaswegian folk singer Alasdair Roberts. Alone on the stage with just his guitar he told powerful stories through song, beautifully played with understated delicacy and a wonderful haunting voice. One or two songs were adaptations of Robert Burns poems, Alasdair is a new talent I was happy to hear for the first time.
Review and photos by richard shashamane