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Review: Trouble in Tahiti

· Ali Turner · Culture

It may be about a marriage on the verge of break down, but Trouble in Tahiti is surprisingly upbeat.

Trouble in Tahiti is a refreshingly honest take on marriage, one that doesn’t have a happily ever after…

At first glance, Trouble in Tahiti comes across as rather glum. It’s the 1950s, Sam and Dinah are meant to be living the dream, but in reality, they’re stuck in an unhappy marriage and they don’t know what to do about it. The entire opera hinges around their misery, but it’s not actually as depressing as it sounds.

Trouble in Tahiti

Credit: Alistair Muir

I mean, there are times when you want to bang their heads together, and others when the emotion on stage is so thick you could cut it with a knife. But there are also moments of complete comedy gold. I’m talking about the Island Magic scene. It’s the one everyone left the theatre talking about, a little splash of technicoloured brilliance that made full use of their small but super-talented cast. Wallis Giunta absolutely rocked this number, bringing all the drama without ever missing a beat.

It’s hard to believe that there were just six people on stage for Island Magic, one of which was Sam and Dinah’s son, ingeniously worked into the number in full cowboy get-up. But that’s the beauty of a production like this, you can get creative – and that they did.

Trouble in Tahiti

Credit: Alistair Muir

Despite the size of the cast, they never had any trouble filling the stage. They were very clever with the way they used the radio trio – even as Sam and Dinah’s story played out, they had a very visual presence on stage, as if they were pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Charles Edwards has outdone himself with the sets on this one. Seven scenes in 45 minutes – that’s no small feat and the way he’s done it is a feast for the eyes. In one scene, the stage is split in two, so you can see Sam in his office and Dinah in her therapist’s office, and in another, Sam’s gym morphs into Dinah’s dreamscape. It’s so well done that the set changes seem to become part of the performance itself.

Trouble in Tahiti

Credit: Alistair Muir

What you get is a real sense of variety, in the staging, in the costumes (you’ve got 1940s worker get-up contrasted against the most incredible 50s dresses) and in the music. It’s insane to think that we were in and out in less than an hour – in that time, we heard catchy little jazz tunes, big musical numbers and traditional opera.

But what most surprised me was my favourite scene. It was the all-out extravagance of the Island Magic, it was the understated, raw emotion of Sam and Dinah’s lie, as they reflected on their lost love. Sat on a bench, side by side, but a million miles apart.

See Trouble in Tahiti at Leeds Grand Theatre from Wednesday 11th October to Saturday 21st October 2017.