"A tale of paranoia, propaganda and people smuggling" - on the Worthing stage

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From the SS Great Britain in Bristol to a former turbine factory in Liverpool, a radically re-imagined Wagner masterpiece tours to waterside venues with venues including Worthing Theatres on July 7 and 8.

The opera is The Flying Dutchman, courtesy of Southampton-based OperaUpClose working in association with Manchester Camerata. Their aim is to reinvigorate Wagner’s classic with an English libretto by poet and novelist Glyn Maxwell and an eight-piece chamber orchestration by Laura Bowler, delivering a haunting political tale exploring the displacement of people and the psychology and realities of living on an island with hardening borders. As artistic director Flora McIntosh says, it brings an urgent and contemporary relevance to the fable of the ship’s captain cursed to roam the sea forever. She is promising a meeting of classic material with strong, contemporary voices: “Reconceived as a tale of paranoia, propaganda and people smuggling, performed in places and spaces that connect directly to the material, this production takes a highly theatrical and innovative approach to musical storytelling.”

Flora became artistic director/chief executive last September: “But I have been involved with the company as a singer myself. I worked with the founder and artistic director and I was involved with the company as an associate artist before I was appointed. It's a really interesting time to take it on. We have a very specific approach. It's about creating work which is intimate and really active. That's our key purpose. The point is that everyone is storytelling on stage. We take away the boundaries between the pit and the stage and the audience. If you have a pit, then opera can seem like something that you receive but we want people to feel that they are really participating in it, that it is not just something that's happening in front of them, that really they are part of it. We don't have the pit and that means that we can really engage with the audience and there's a real sense of the audience becoming our collaborators. The whole point about live performance is that if you are there then you are a participator in at all. It's about really engaging people in the power that opera has to tell great stories. You think about the specific nature of the sound and it's that extra dimension of character and nuance that you get through the direct connection of the human voice, and really that's the magic of opera. There can be problems around the word opera. People feel that it's something they need to understand before they engage with it. It is like with Shakespeare. People think ‘I don't get it’ or ‘It's not for me’ and that's a shame. What we want to show is the power that opera has to say something, to reach people, of all that you can experience through dance and spoken word and circus and lyric theatre and intense theatre.

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"What we're wanting to do is create all that through our diverse theatrical landscape, and opera should sit right in the middle of it all. Opera has great power to communicate something from the soul, and really what we do is acknowledge that you can't be sitting in a different part of the forest from everyone else if you want to communicate directly.”

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