Review by John Clarke: Haunting, hypnotic, entrancing Emily

A scene from Emily
A scene from Emily

Before I start, let me tell you I’m not the biggest fan of opera. I kind of think it’s elitist, too showy and mildly annoying.

But I put all those thoughts away when I saw Emily, the brand new opera opening at Todmorden Hippodrome on July 4. It is an enchanting visual spectacle with incredible voices and haunting, hypnotic music.

Charting the tragic story of the suffragette Emily Davison, Tim Benjamin, composer and director, brought something completely new and very big to our small town.

Unusual storytelling, exquisite costumes and an evocative set (Lara Booth’s genius) slowly draws the audience in while you gradually grow accustomed, then end up loving the intense and moving voices.

These voices are coupled with great action, great tenacity and great emotion from all. For me the dynamic between Stephanie Stanway and Louis Hurst early on was thrilling but Jacklin, Roberts, Callahan and Charlesworth later shine too, each in their own distinct way. Under Antony Brannick’s effortless direction, the music is an undercurrent that can rise to bring you right there in the action.

This brave collaboration between resident and visiting companies again shows what magic the Hippodrome is capable of. It even managed to get me to rethink opera.