Review: Opera Australia's El Kid at the Arts Centre, Melbourne

It's been fantastic fun being a part of the cast of 'El Kid' for the Victorian Schools Tour with Opera Australia. We ended our 2016 season with a series of public performances, in partnership with Arts Centre Melbourne, and received glowing reviews. Here's a snippet of the review that appeared in the Herald Sun on 23 November:

OPERA Australia and Arts Centre Melbourne’s new family opera El Kid, takes an issue familiar to us all, particularly pertinent in schools, and gives its audience a good reality check with it.

Devised by Liesel and Michael Badorrek and based on the Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, and set to Bizet’s popular tunes from Carmen, El Kid tells a story about Diego the billy goat, as heart wrenching as it is comic and ludicrous all the way down to some base laugh-out-loud flatulent trumpeting.

Poor Diego (Shoumendu Ganguly) endures the worst of verbal abuse and put-downs from his brother and sister, Ferdinand (Ruth Strutt) and Isabella (Jessica Boyd), their self-importance inflated by the number of Facebook likes they get. Diego has his magic that he’s a flop at but wants to go to the Fiesta de la Cabra to entertain. He’s achingly pleading to be loved and has no friends but his pot plants and an orange he confides in.

To get to the fiesta, a bridge needs to be crossed at which the insatiably hungry resident Troll (James Payne), wants to eat them, the fouler the better. First, Ferdinand tricks him into the more “bitter and sour” Isabella who in turn suggests more “new and strange things”, Diego. Conjuring all his magic, a valiant Diego shows his strength and chases the troll away for all to get to the fiesta.

In the theatre of make-believe, among the bright colours, sunshiny and cactus-growing Mexico festively designed by Mark Thompson, the Badorrek’s drive the issue of teasing and bullying with unrestraint and emotional clout in an unexpected blast of confrontational theatre.

Bizet’s melodious tunes get some fine-voiced flair and wicked lyrics like “flambé of fart” with neatly arranged musical assistance from Raymond Lawrence and a lush little violin, double bass, trumpet and piano ensemble. With Leisel Badorrek’s witty direction, the one-hour piece charges along with its cast of four energetic and comically adept performers.

Be prepared for the impact because El Kid will shake you up. It may even be a call to action or self-examination. At the very least, it’s meaningful theatre wrapped in light operatic entertainment to charm the socks off kids and adults alike.

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