Review: Cambridge Arts Theatre has a Figaro that is a Marriage made in Heaven

The Marriage of Figaro at Cambridge Arts Theatre

The Marriage of Figaro at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

There may be a more amusing version of The Marriage of Figaro than this one from English Touring Opera, but I haven’t seen it and don’t expect to. This ingenious English translation by Jeremy Sams rhymes and it’s cheeky. When Antonio, the gardener describes seeing a man fall out a woman’s bedroom window and he’s asked where the is man now, he sings: “I don’t know, he buggered off.”

The gardener is a cameo role but Devon Harrison turns it into a comic gem.

This is a perfect production of Mozart’s comic opera, with singing to gladden the heart and performances to make the spirits soar. Everyone acts their heart out so that you believe everything you see. When the Countess, (Nadine Benjamin) laments that her husband no longer loves her, it’s moving moment of stillness among the laughs.

This is Mozart’s farce and the plot is like a fugue. It repeats itself with a slightly different twist each time. Whenever the plan is foiled, someone comes up with a version that might still work.

The devilish, womaniser, Count Almaviva wants to have his wicked way with his wife’s servant Susanna – on her very wedding day to Figaro, his valet. Between them, Susanna (played and sung beautifully by Rachel Redmond), Figaro and the Count’s wife Countess Rosina, try to trick the Count into an assignation that he thinks is with Susanna but is actually with someone else dressed as her. Then his cover will be blown.

At first, the tryst will be with Cherubino, a young page to the Count who is so pretty the ladies think they can disguise him as a woman. When that falls through, after multiple plot contortions, the disguised person is the Countess herself.

Meanwhile, jealous of Cherubino, (played with immaculate comic timing by Katherine Aiken – who is a girl playing a boy who is playing a girl) the Count (a masterful and strong voiced Dawid Kimberg) has enlisted the slight young man into the army. Ross Ramgobin’s characterful Figaro tells Cherubino that the young man’s fun in life is now over – and sings while doing press ups.

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This show is enchanting and entertaining from start to finish. Not a moment is wasted, the cast get into their costumes during the overture. If you love opera you must see it. If you think opera is not for you, this will change your mind. This marriage was made in Heaven.

At Cambridge Arts Theatre until April 21.