SF Said’s books about a Mesopotamian Blue kitten are apparently best-sellers, but that doesn’t seem to have translated into a huge interest in this operatic treatment, to judge from the small turn-out for Saturday night’s performance.
The Opera Group, widely admired for its promotion of new small-scale opera, commissioned it from composer Julian Philips, with a libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey.
The idea of making opera for children and families is an interesting one, and in its early stages, with some clear singing and clever use of digital projection, this certainly suggests how it could be a viable and accessible medium. But as the show goes on it becomes denser, darker and, inevitably, longer.
I don’t know whether the children in the audience thought it was too long at two-and-a-quarter hours, but I do know I did. On the other hand, they may well have had the advantage of already knowing the story.
The tale of the disregarded child of a pretentious family of cats going to the big city for help when its owner dies is a familiar rite-of-passage story, but I found the narrative confusing in parts and some of the characters, like the sleazy Scratch Sisters, eminently expendable.
That’s a pity, because Julian Philips, a local lad who grew up in Warwick and played in the Coventry Youth Orchestra, has an obvious affinity for the stage.
He has written a highy inventive but approachable score, with accordion and baritone sax adding spice to the small instrumental ensemble.
And it would all have been much harder to sit through without a particularly engaging performance in the title role from Akiya Henry, a gifted singer and actress whose interesting CV ranges from playing Moth in Love’s Labour’s Lost at the National Theatre to being one of Vicky Pollard’s gang in Little Britain