Review of “The Anatomy of Melancholy”

Its about time I did another review, however this one is different. Usually I attend events, conferences, engagement events and awareness days. On the 23rd of October 2014 I decided to pop over to to the Battersea over in the borough of Wandsworth to watch an opera performed at Testbed1 which is a 7,000 sq ft creative events space located in Battersea.. Now I am usually just the person to go to the Cinema and yes I know that seems boring, but I thought why not check out this new opera called “The Anatomy of Melancholy”.

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As you can guess Melancholy is a state of low mood or we could say Depression, so since this is a blog is about caring and mental health, I felt it was worth my time to view this Opera performance.

While I was travelling to the show, I kept thinking at the back of my mind how will this Opera performance describe the form of depression, but before I continue with the review, I think its important to describe a bit about depression.

Depression can affect us all, some get depression worse than others. If someone suffers chronic depression then this can be a serious mental health condition where the person begins to become very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. The person experiences

  • Loss of interest
  • Slowness of movement and thinking
  • Thoughts about hopelessness, suicide and death
  • Tiredness and lack of energy

In the UK Depression affects 1 in 5 older people. You can get more information about depression from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Going back to the Opera performance, as I entered to gain a seat around the stage, I was impressed with the use of lighting, which set the scene very well. I especially admired the use of shadows around the stage. The lighting was done by Joshua Pharo who has done many works across theatre, dance and opera.

The play was written and directed by Finn Beames who is also the founder of bodycorps. We also had OPUS2014 finalist Benjamin Tassie who composed the music for the play and the co-designer being Mayou Tikerioti who has designed many productions in the UK and Greece. The conductor of the play was Tim Murray who has already conducted a series of operas at the Gran Teatro del luceu, Royal Opera House and more.

The Opera centered on the old medical belief of the four humors: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily liquids, or humors. These being Yellow, Phlegm, Black bile and blood. The Opera singers included

John Lattimore whose new work for autumn 2014 will cover John Adams at ENO.

John Lattimore - 2

We also had actors Mark Beesley who sung as a principal solo singer at many major opera houses. We also had Janet Henfrey who has been performing over the last 50 years in many theatres.

Other members of the cast were Donna Lennard who has performed in many opera roles one being alice in Airborne, Dario Dugandzic whose credits include The Dark. Anna Harvey with her roles being “Daughter of the sea” and Maud Millar who made her debut Oliver Knussen’s Trumpets with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The style of the opera kept my interest going as I looked for references on how depression affects someone. The actors carried their characters well enough that you at least cared about what happens to them in the play. The opera highlighted not only the difficultly of living with depression, but how it affects families and carers, which was well performed by the Grandmother (Janet Henfrey) and the Profather (Mark Beesley).

Janet Henfrey

The Opera also centered on the use of genetics and renaissance medicine, there was quite a lot to learn about the study into Melancholy.

John Lattimore

The performance was also very creative in using different scenes and equipment where inventiveness raised my curiosity about depression, especially with the use of film and equipment where I began to almost focus on several things going on at once.

The music played throughout the opera lent itself to the performance with its eerie sounds, frightening scores and gloomy moods. I must admit I am not one for opera performances and some parts of the play I couldnt understand in one sitting, but nevertheless I really enjoyed the show and would certainly see it again if I have the chance.

You can find out more about “The Anatomy of Melancholy” from their site http://www.bodycorps.org/

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