Farinelli and the King

This turned out to be the bonus of the week. We went because it starred Mark Rylance, but had no other expectations. It was a terrific play, with a superb cast. Mark Rylance played the King with opera star Iestyn Davies as the castrato, Farinelli, who sang wonderful Handel arias. The original Farinelli first sang them in the 1730’s.

Rylance’s wife, Claire van Kampen was the writer and musical arranger. John Dove was the director.

Original practices gave us a stage lit almost exclusively by candlelight. It was a magical performance. If someone had said that I would love a play about a depressed and insomniac King and his relationship with a castrato, I doubt that I would have agreed. Having seen it, I loved it.

The power of Rylance was demonstrated when an audience member in the near box had a medical emergency of some sort. Rylance noticed, spoke to the individual and kept the audience absolutely silent simply by raising one hand and saying ”One moment please.” Then he resumed the play. Moments like this are what makes live theatre so exciting!


About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
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One Response to Farinelli and the King

  1. keithhpotter says:

    Probably a close second to “The Divine” for our play of the year. Certainly for the production and acting, although the play itself is not as strong.

    Rylance has a remarkable ability to make you forget he is acting; we just seemed to be visiting King Philippe who casually chatted to the other characters and us – the fourth wall was very transparent!
    And Rylance is brilliant.

    Jonathan Fensom’s set at the Duke of York, with the candelabra, candle footlights, musicians in the balcony and audience members in boxes on stage, could easily have been over-the-top, but actually worked well.

    Actually, Sam Crane played Farinelli, with Davies coming on as a sort of doppleganger for the arias – mostly Handel. A strange approach but one that worked well.

    Overall, a strange production of a strange (but apparently true) story, that ended up working brilliantly.

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