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Review: Madam Butterfly, at The King’s Head Theatre

27 February, 2017 — By Sarah Dawes

Becca Marriot as Butterfly in Paul Higgins’ staging at The King’s Head. Photo: Christopher Tribble

OPERA is so versatile that five singers and a piano in a room at the back of a pub can produce something as entertaining as an elaborate production in the elegant surroundings of a beautiful theatre.

The production of Madam Butterfly directed by Paul Higgins at the King’s Head Theatre adds a cello, played by Alison Holford, and manages to do more than justice to the music of Puccini.

The hefty themes include the sex industry, a single mother, an absentee father and adoption – and the music reflects the pathos and drama of these themes. By using a modern setting, Higgins transforms the brothel into a “maid café” where teenage girls offer “under the counter” services.

One pities the poor Consul, sung by Sam Pantcheff, who skilfully portrays the dilemma of helping his friend do something dishonourable.

Matthew Kimble, as Pinkerton, is utterly believable as the immature American serviceman who falls in love, gets married, and then regrets it.

Particularly well expressed is Becca Marriot’s final distress and despair as Butterfly when she realises that Pinkerton has not only betrayed her but is taking away her beloved child.

The small venue means that the audience is close to the performers and can see their faces more clearly than in a regular theatre. The clever set, by Luke Robson, consists of windows that change colour frequently, and acquire curtains for the second act. The English rewrite by Amanda Holden captures the flavour of the original Italian.

The King’s Head is well worth a visit and its Magic Flute in May and June should be a delight.

• Madam Butterfly is at The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, N1, until March 18. 020 7226 8561,


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