The Marriage of Kim K

Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017

reviews

Helena Snider

at 09:36 on 20th Aug 2017

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'The Marriage of Kim K' resolves around a young couple – Amelia (Amelia Gabriel), a young lawyer, and her husband, Stephen (Stephen Hyde). He is an aspiring writer who watches Mozart for inspiration – though it’s implied his understanding is somewhat lacking – whereas she prefers to relax by watching 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians'. The plot seems entirely implausible for a show that lasts just over an hour, but somehow, the cast and the director pull it off.

There are several strands to the story. We watch not only Amelia and Stephen, but we also watch them watching Kim Kardashian and her husband of 72 days Kris Humphries (Yasemin Mireille and James Edge), as well as Count (Nathan Bellis) and Countess Almaviva (Emily Burnett) from Mozart’s 'The Marriage of Figaro'.

It is deeply clever; my only critique is that it might be too clever and ambitious for its own good. That being said, perhaps the over-ambition lends itself to a farcical element. The Count and Countess start singing in English after Amelia turns on the English subtitles. This is a smooth way to convey a sense of meta-theatre. However, that the audience were supposed to see themselves reflected in the main couple – Amelia and Stephen - was perhaps made overly clear.

In terms of singing, the Countess and Amelia were the highlights. The original musical numbers, somewhat inevitably, get outshone by Mozart’s melodies. However, this is arguably to highlight the cultural and intellectual disparity between one of the most famous and successful operas of all time, and a reality television show. Kim’s falseness and superficiality is one of the main sources of comedic gold.

That being said, there was a refreshing lack of snobbery regarding the portrayal of Kim’s character generally; in fact, her character was arguably given more depth in this musical than she is ever shown to have in real-life interviews or on her TV show. Moreover, her husband’s insistent objectification of her served to highlight the manner in which TV stars are reduced to two-dimensional characters in a fame-game which has more to do with the audience’s projection than anything else. The point is that we do occasionally catch a glimpse at Kim’s conflicts and deeper unhappiness, for example when she faces a moral conundrum on the phone to Kayne West (her future husband).

All six performers are highly talented, though Mireille and Edge enjoyed the most stage presence, and were the ones who elicited the most out loud laughs. All in all, this was an engaging, highly innovative and original production, which was well worth the watch. I highly recommend it.

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Adele Cooke

at 18:50 on 20th Aug 2017

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Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Kim Kardashian’s 2011 marriage to Kris Humphries seem like an unusual pairing. When added to a score which compiles both features of classical opera and the modern musical, it’s no wonder this show captures a millennial imagination. Yet somehow amongst this seemingly in-cohesive compilation comes laugh out loud theatrical brilliance of the highest kind.

The show centres on the relationship of Amelia and Stephen, a couple both on and off stage. Using the central device of the television, the play fluctuates between sections of The Marriage of Figaro and the televising of Kim Kardashian’s wedding preparations. This is surprisingly effective, as associate director Leoe Mercer and director Stephen Hyde draw on similar themes in both stories, juxtaposing the conflict of Count Almaviva and Countess Rosina with Kim’s growing distain for her husband Kris. This allows the show to flow seamlessly, as the audience are caught up in the tribulations of relationships through the ages- and are convincingly able to relate to the couples from 1778 and 2011.

Having only been created recently, in 2015, I will admit that professionalism was not at the forefront of my expectations for ‘The Marriage of Kim K’. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quality of the show. Fusing so called “reality theatre” with classical opera is no mean feat, yet Mercer and Hyde accomplish this masterfully. The score shifted from Mozart’s melodies to hip-hop, R&B, musical theatre, blues and jazz, yet never seemed in-cohesive. I was surprised to discover that Amelia Gabriel is about to begin the final year of her undergraduate English degree, as her performance shone with a greater professionalism than you might expect from a student performer. Special mention should also be made to Emily Burnett and Nathan Bellis, whose homages to Mozart’s original opera were faultless, even when integrated with the “magpie collage” of Kim K’s vocals. The audience evidently enjoyed the performance as much as I did, giving the cast a standing ovation upon the show’s completion, and laughing deeply and frequently throughout. Although reality television is at the core of this production, its execution was anything but stereotypically trashy.

With regards to production, I was impressed by producer, designer and lighting designer Alexander Newton’s creation of staging zones, separating Kim K and comic opera. This was effective, as the play was not swallowed by its own intelligence. I was also greatly impressed by the way in which these zones became integrated, as Amelia and Kim sung in unison, once again teasing out the subtle themes of betrayal, resentment and social status that united this series of couples. After ten years of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, this play is seemingly another golden opportunity for Kim’s reinvention- and her audience love it.

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