is based on a
1926 Russian silent film, of all things, a mildly political romantic
comedy about a couple who take in a boarder only to have him displace
the husband in the wife's bed. She ultimately has to decide, not
between them, but whether she really wants either.
libretto reduces the subversive commentary on the hardships of life in
the Stalin era to a minimum, but he otherwise follows the film so
closely that his lyrics are all taken from the film's translated
challenge for composer Polly Pen, since lines like 'I have wrapped my
sandwich in paper' and even 'I have brought you coffee beans from
Rostov' don't really lend themselves to extended melodic treatment, and
some of the incidental music has an anonymous Palm Court Orchestra
the bed and I'll take the sofa' develops nicely into a recurring song,
especially as the identities of 'you' and 'I' keep changing.
is a nicely
witty edge to a song in which the woman realises that both she and the
USSR government have bad luck in choosing their men, and a melodic trio
in which the three sing of their separate dreams is lovely and
satisfyingly complex in a Sondheimish way, recalling the
'Soon/Now/Later' trio in A Little Night Music while retaining its own
of Luke Sheppard and the musical direction of Candida Caldicot,
Alistair Parker (husband), Kaisa Hammarlund (wife) and Alistair
Brookshaw (boarder) sing beautifully and capture all the quiet humour
of the story, hampered only by the occasional low-energy stretches,
particularly in the first half, when they're not given enough,
musically or comically, to work with.
And as pleasant added bonuses we get the recorded voice of Penelope Keith reading some of the film's ironic between-scenes commentary, and a delightful little toy train.
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- Bed and Sofa - Finborough 2011