Farinelli and the King
Written Claire Van Kampen
Directed by John Dove
December 23, 2017
💉💉💉💉 out of 5.
Mark Rylance rules the world! AND for this particular production I was gifted with seats right on the stage. It felt almost like being part of a private audience in some courtly manor. This was going to be one of my favorite theatre memories in a long list of productions.
Mark Rylance – – There is no way he can be on stage without all eyes being riveted to his work. It is hard to explain this stage charisma. The best that I can explain it is that he is SO very present on stage that you really believe he has NO idea what is going to happen in the next moment. He is like a small child playing in the now and hearing the words coming out of his mouth for the first time. It is ALL discovery.
The problem with this gift, of course, is that there is no way you want to get interested in any other character on stage – – you just sit there patiently hoping he is coming back on soon. It’s like having a puppy on stage – – your eyes cannot help be drawn to the naturalism of the dog – everything else around the pup reads so false.
Farinelli and the King is a really wonderful story. Based on the true story of the rather mad King Philippe V (1683-1746) who today we would likely diagnose as a bipolar disorder. Into this chaotic world comes Farinelli, a world-famous castrato. For a few brief moments, this beautiful music provides relief for the king and allows him to return to the normal world. Here we SHOULD witness the power of music to tame the crazy – the crazy inside the king’s world.
This is where I don’t understand this production. If the entire premise of the show is about the power of music and its power to heal – then why did we never see Mark Rylance affected by the singing. The operatic castrato is beautiful – but it has no dramatic power – we never see it serve an objective. We never witness its affect. We never see how this music changes things. The play simply stops and this man comes out and sings a pretty song then we go back to the play. How wonderful it would have been if we could have seen the king (Mark Rylance) on stage, listening to the music, affected by the music, and transformed by the music – now that would have been a five-needle event!
In summary, every moment with Mark Rylance was a five needle event – – but there was too much without him – – too much side story – and too little time spent on connecting music to the madness.