Opera North’s Carousel is ‘Simply Stunning’

By May 19, 2015


[Photo credit: Alastair Muir]

It is often onstage performances that are the talking point; however in Opera North’s performance of Carousel, I felt the backstage work stole the show.

The set provided a perfect backdrop for the show. The set change transitions were flawless. A simple tree placed in the middle of the set transforming into a fully functioning carousel at the beginning was breathtaking. The performers danced their way on and off stage, taking various parts of the carousel with them to provide a non-intrusive, seamless transition.

From large scale sets of houses and boat docks to more minimalist effects such as a cascade of blossoms falling from a tree, the set work was faultless. We are often spoilt when it comes to set and scenery, as many films and television programs have the budget and technology to provide stunning sets. However, I have never seen a live show with such a vivid, captivating backdrop that remained at the heart of the action the whole way through. It felt as if I really was there at the carousel, the island, and the house, being invited into the characters’ lives and drawn into their world.


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The revolving floor was not just used to create the carousel effect – it was used throughout the performance to provide smooth scene changes without any jerky stop-starts or the blackouts so often found in theatre performances. It was interesting to watch how the actors worked the revolving stage, and how the choreographer and director used the floor to their advantage. My personal highlight came at the end of the show. The audience first saw the graduation ceremony as viewed from the back of the hall, but as the cast began singing the reprise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, the revolving floor gradually turned the cast towards the audience. This effect added to the show’s unforgettable crescendo, bringing most of the audience to tears.

Every detail was taken into account. The house was filled with cooking equipment and cluttered with various bits and bobs. You often hear of actors “method acting”, but this was method staging at its best. It was clear the backstage team had really put themselves in the characters’ shoes to create their home.

The use of modern day technology was brilliant. Shadows were projected onto a wooden backdrop at various points in the show, most notably to project a silhouette carousel. Video projection was used to show Earth from Heaven, a clever device that was also implemented to provide a backdrop of the sea. This realistic set brought the show to life in a way that I’ve never seen done before.


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The costumes were beautiful. Though undoubtedly giving an old-fashioned effect of the 1870s, the vibrant colours and fabrics meant the costumes weren’t dowdy. The actors clearly felt comfortable and in character, and it really did feel as though we were transported back in time to Maine. With so much intricate dance choreography and a ballet sequence, the costumes not only had to be stunning – they had to be practical.

The backstage team did an excellent job, and their hard work contributed to one of the finest pieces of theatre I have seen.

There’s still chance to see Carousel at Leeds Grand until 23rd May – don’t miss it!

Sophie Joelle Cartwright

Filed under: Music, Theatre & Dance

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