Richard Wagner has hitherto been a bit of a closed book to me. Opera, in particular, is one field of the arts which I doggedly shun.
But I’ve always been a huge fan of the classic tales. Anything with a God or Monster, be it Ancient Greece, Norse or Roman, and I’m there.
So it was with great delight that I ventured along the South Bank to MoreLondon’s The Scoop ampitheatre to watch a night of high drama featuring trolls, nymphs, heroes and villains – plus a certain magical gold ring.
The Ring Cycle is, as they say in the prologue, four short plays telling an epic story.
And what an adventure! What’s more – it’s free!
At a time when the greedy West End is pricing the public out of the venues, here is a site offering a month of top quality theatre for free.
MoreLondon go one step further – from June to September, its summer festival offers a variety of top entertainment.
The downside is the erratic British weather and the cold stony seating but – hey – it’s worth it (and you can get cushions).
On Friday night the rain kept off and the press settled down for a thrilling ride with the Valkyries.
This is Wagner’s story, which he based on Norse mythology but set in his native Germany – without the opera.
It is delivered as four 50-minute plays which you can dip into whenever you’re passing (for those lucky enough to live or work in London) or enjoy in one exciting evening.
Last year Gods & Monsters Theatre Company brought heroes from Greece. This year’s 24-carat story is about gold, sex, power, corruption, and, I was shocked to discover, rather a lot of incest.
Gosh, who’d have known? (well, I would if I’d studied my classics in greater detail.)
The water nymphs guard a magical ring at the bottom of the Rhine but one day it’s stolen by a fat, ugly troll, who is enchanted by its ability to bring wealth.
Wotan, King of the Gods (and a bit of a lad with the ladies) is none too pleased with the turn of events and incurs the wrath of his wife, Frika.
Things turn worse when his wondrous palace, Valhalla, built by the giants, is held to ransom unless he can come up a payment that is either Frika’s sister or her weight in gold.
From here on co-directors Phil Willmott and Racky Plews take us on a journey that throws up incestuous siblings, sword-fights, magic, a dragon, and a bunch of comedy trolls that brew a witch’s potion rich with humour and laced with bile.
It’s all over-the-top and beautifully presented by a splendid cast.
The comedy comes naturally to Terence Frisch who keeps the audience amused both as a giant and a scheming troll.
And once again, the dashing Philip Scott-Wallace, is in heroic good form as the handsome Siegfried who wrestles demons and ends up bedding both his sister and aunt.
Despite this, it is a family show. Children will love the puppets and the dramatic story-telling.
Artistic director Willmott, who also adapted the story with Lisa Kuma, makes a fine king whose eventual humbling comes from his own vanity and lust.
The women are universally stronger and more dominant in the saga.
Claire Jeater’s turn as his furious cuckolded wife, Frika, is powerfully delivered while Amy Christina Murray makes a slightly built but intimidating female warrior Brünnhilde.
Phil Sealey plays the troll king as a nasty wee Scot hell bent on ruling the world. Just perfect.
Visit The Scoop, outside City Hall, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, for a magical night of quality drama.
Running until August 31.
Nightly timetable: (not Mon/Tues) until August 31 .
6.00pm – 6.45pm THE RHINE GOLD
7.00pm – 7.45pm THE VALKYRIE
7.45pm – 8.30pm Break
8.30pm – 9.15pm SIEGFRIED
9.30pm – 10.15pm TWILIGHT OF THE GODS.