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Auntie (a strong Anne Collins) and her nieces (Ailish Tynan and Helen Williams) injected rather too much ribaldry and suggestiveness into the proceedings; surely this community is rather buttoned up and not so free? Alan Opie's bluff Bulstrode was also rather too free with Auntie's nieces. Heppner's Grimes did not always find the poetry in the role and Janice Watson's Ellen Orford was distinguished but without the radiance that I would have liked.

As if to further the sense of bawdiness within the community, the scene in the Boar Inn was the only one to use colour, red of course, in the back drop. Again the scene was skewed and vertiginously raked. Anne Collins continued her excellent Auntie, but all of the smaller roles were rather over-played. Apart from Collins, the other character who stood out from the general indistinguishable blackness of the singers garb, was the Mrs Sedly of Sarah Walker.

Ben Heppner as Peter Grimes and Alan Opie as Captain Balstrode. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda
Ben Heppner as Peter Grimes and Alan Opie as Captain Balstrode. Photo © 2004 Clive Barda

The continuing sense of abstract expressionism rather weighed against Heppner in the 'great bear and the pleiades' scene; Heppner's performance lacked the shock of the poetry of the man against the common doings in the pub. Heppner has the voice for the role, but on this showing lacks the presence of Jon Vickers. It was Vickers who re-defined what was possible with Grimes, but whilst he brought to it a fine heroic voice he also imbued the role with a sense of Grimes visionary unworldliness; something that Heppner, as yet, does not do.

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Copyright © 10 July 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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