The Maestro’s Last Words by Barry Langley
OSO Arts Centre
OSO Arts Centre - 08 February 2020
A review by Matthew Grierson
An old white man from a privileged background with an international reputation finds out he has lymphoma, but the lump is swiftly and successfully removed in a private hospital: it would be difficult to spoil the surprise of The Maestro’s Last Words as, sad to say, there isn’t any.
The play attempts to overcome its dramatic deficit by being fortissimo from the outset, but, with so little at stake much of the incident feels contrived, bearing little sense of a reality with which we can engage. I appreciate we’re in an operatic milieu here, but there’s no modulation of the self-involved tone orchestrated by Sir Charles Ackroyd (Edmund Dehn). When, for instance, the conductor’s entourage visit him in hospital as he convalesces, they waste no time in running around screaming the place down with the threat of a lawsuit. There is no sense of crescendo, it’s a forced farce.
Yet the play doesn’t seem to be pitched as a comedy either. What jokes there are have little weight or build-up, as exemplified by the ill-judged interjections made by Sir Charles’s hapless secretary Hickton (Alexander Jonas) when his employer is entertaining morbid visions. The one joke that evidences some sense of structure is when soprano Madame Fontana (Violetta Gapardi) is invited to sing: assuming an operatic posture she then simply offers an anticlimactic: ‘No.’ I had thought this was to avoid the need to cast a trained singer, but Gapardi acquits herself admirably in this regard when she does get to sing.
Intimations of mortality ought to give an author something worthwhile to work with, whether they were going for introspection or dark comedy, but Barry Langley’s script is a series of rococo flourishes off the idea without taking it anywhere. This is typified by dumping information into the dialogue so we know exactly how he has conceived the characters, rather than taking us on a journey with them. Exhibit A: ‘You know I always conduct without looking at the score,’ says Sir Charles, telling Fontana something that she is explicitly already aware of. ‘Yes,’ she replies, ‘you’re world-famous for it.’ So now we know.
For full review:http://markaspen.com/2020/02/05/maestro/
A Trevor Hartnup production at the OSO Arts Centre