Unexpected Opera have made Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’ more accessible with its newly reduced version showing at the Charing Cross Theatre. The Rinse Cycle is a production that attempts to squeeze 16 hours of Wagner’s work into just 2 hours. Aiming to please audiences that would not consider themselves to be opera fans, Unexpected Opera use an educational tone to simplify and explain Wagner’s work.
A cast of 5 established opera singers accompanied by a talented pianist take the audience on a journey through Wagner’s 4 operas. Approximately half an hour is allocated to each opera with some beautiful musical pieces laced throughout. Vocal performances by Simon Thorpe and Edward Hughes are particularly notable; their voices resonated with the audience long after the performance had ended.
Described as a comedy, puns and simple jokes are used to break the tension and intensity of the traditional opera. Set in a launderette with washing machines that emit bubbles and spin, this is not a show for those who take themselves too seriously; laughter bubbled out of the audiences’ mouths throughout the cycle of the show.
To enjoy this production it is not necessary to know much about Wagner’s work but it was noticeable that some scenes had secondary meanings that only a clued up opera fan would be able to understand. In addition, the comedy seemed to be aimed at the middle aged with the use of unoriginal and predictable jokes. It is a chaotic and arguably fun production that is structurally similar to a pantomime with cast members breaking the fourth wall and encouraging audience participation.
For fans of opera who also have a funny bone, a visit to the Charing Cross Theatre would make for a great night out but I am unconvinced that this production is going to create a new generation of opera enthusiasts. However, if you want a quick lesson on Wagner and opera then this may be the quickest and most entertaining way to do so.
To experience Wagner’s Ring Cycle in an original form you can buy tickets for performances up until 12th March 2016: