letter from James Joseph

Dear Clive
It was a privilege to be at Saturday’s performance, a full & excited house with an unspoken awareness that threads of friendship & collaboration linked most of the hundreds present. The Mare’s Tale has its own manifold futures ahead of it, but what we witnessed on Saturday was in fact already a remarkably polished presentation of rich and haunting work, a deeply touching hour of music theatre. It’s hard to imagine what this extraordinary journey has demanded of you, but Morgan Seyes now lives within us all. As an only recently formed chamber orchestra, the commissioning by MWCO of The Mare’s Tale as a work of music theatre was a brave, imaginative step, a stimulating response to thrilling performances in 2012 and 2013 of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. The swiftness of its development to staged work has been remarkable, as has been the generosity of collaboration.
The ancestry of The Mare’s Tale is surely steeped in personal experience: actual love, actual trauma; real life, real death.  Many threads interlace the remarkable body of work that already exists on its dateline, but Damian Walford Davies’ magnificent libretto has managed to achieve both autonomy and enormous resonance. His words are powerful and vibrant, his narrative honed & spare.  “Sharp and soft as anything” – Philippa Robbins’ beautiful description, not mine.  An uncommonly generous piece of work, a gift to composer & designer.
You and others have written eloquently of the depth of dedication & sheer quality that all your team have brought to this project. But what many of us may have carried away from the evening is the selflessness of each contribution. Conductor and musicians became almost invisible – it was Mark Bowden’s glorious music that soared. The life they brought to your extraordinary puppets may have broken our hearts, but puppeteers & vision team remained demure. The dreamlike filmwork & images were offered only modestly to the screen, and then only to counterpoint the inner narrative.
But as has been written, one man carried the show on the night: Eric Roberts was magnificent, wholly convincing & deeply moving, bringing a lifetime of operatic skills to the demands of a spoken narrative. Many will have carried away with them the image of Eric finally perched high, precariously, on that skewed chair at the peak of that skewed tower. I will cherish the hushed parlando quality that he brought to the final Mari Lwyd song, that lovely baritone voice reined back to stay in character. One last moment of generosity.

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