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<<  -- 3 --  David Wilkins    ALL DECEPTION

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The scene where Kovalyov discovers that he's missing an important bit of his vanity is a joy worthy of the best of farces. Lying in bed, writhing about -- to what end we don't need to explore too much once we see that he has the torso of an inflatable doll that flies away from him at a crucial moment -- while the orchestra provides a persuasive background of snores and shifts and farts and sniffles and the entire panoply of waking. He looks in a mirror and, after a double-take or two, has to admit, 'My God, it's not there!!!' The relished sadism of his servant, Ivan, when asked to 'pinch' his master from this unwelcome dream is one of many subtle but telling touches in a production that would have delighted Tolstoyevsky but might have left a more sensitive Anton Pavlovich Chekov worrying about 'overkill'!

Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov and Andrew Rupp as The Barber. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov and Andrew Rupp as The Barber. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

Jeremy Huw Williams -- acknowledged to be a touch under the weather for this performance -- clearly inhabits the part of Kovalyov. It's a very difficult one to pull-off (even beyond the music challenges) because he's no hero and nobody is really attractive in this work. But he's sympathetic in a silent-movie, Buster Keaton, kind of way. When he goes to the cathedral and finds his disembodied nose (grown to a man's height and hilariously bedecked as a senior government official with pink feathers in his hat) snogging with the Icon figure (Alexander Grove and Sinead Campbell) he is, quite understandably, confused. It is a side-splittingly funny moment -- one of the best I've ever enjoyed in the theatre. It's equalled and surpassed later in the show when, all D'Artagnon-like, the Nose comes to the rescue of a sandwich-seller (Aileen Sim singing with wonderful clarity) who is being lasciviously set-about by some casual drunks. The sight of a Nose, dressed for the court of Louis 14th, brandishing a pistol in aid of a working-class lady's honour, standing on the ceremony of his title and position but doomed to plebian mugging is something beyond the imagination of Monty Python. A hoot -- and then some!!

Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov and Sinead Campbell as the Cathedral singer. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir
Jeremy Huw Williams as Kovalyov and Sinead Campbell as the Cathedral singer. Photo © 2006 Alastair Muir

During all of this mayhem on stage, the pit provides hints of jazz and Alan Berg and Stravinsky (Janacek even) and much else, but all with the unmistakable paprika of Shostakovich.

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Copyright © 23 May 2006 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK

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