La Cava - 24 June 2000

La Cava or The Harlot in question is Florinda Espatorias the 16 year old daughter of General Julian Espatorias, Governor of the Spanish held ‘Ceuta’ in Northern Africa. Florinda is reported to have brought down King Roderic of Spain by a false accusation of rape in revenge for her lover’s death at Roderic’s hand. Florinda's father and the moor Tariq, father of the her lover ,Somal, vow to avenge their children and go into battle against Roderic.

La Cava has a strong book, some excellent performances, a stunning set, excellent direction which keeps the action moving swiftly along and a score which is pleasant with some good songs. Stand out numbers included the opening ‘Proud to call mine’ as the people of Ceuta are proud to call it home, ‘Say Goodbye’ as Florinda lets the memory of Somal go, ‘What would you do for your child’ as Julian and Tariq decide to join forces and ‘La Cava’ as Queen Exilona vents her anger at Florinda for her affair with her husband.

As Florinda, Julie-Alanah Brighten gives an emotional performance, well acted and convincingly conveying Florinda's character / dilemma as she is leaves her country life for life at court. She works well with David Bardsley as her father and with Daniel Redmond as Somal creating convincing relationships with both. Oliver Tobias played the part of Roderic fairly well although his voice had very little emotion in it so the feelings of Roderic didn’t always come across as strong as they should. This also made it harder for the chemistry to develop completely convincingly between Roderic and Florinda which had been created previously with David and Daniel. David Bardsley was excellent as Julian, in fine voice and created the anguish of the father who acts to protect his daughter’s honour against his old friend Roderic. Admirable support was provided by the beautifully voiced Marilyn Cutts as the tragic Queen Exilona , never forgiven by Roderic for her affair years before, Richard Woodford as her forever loyal servant Agon who follows his mistress even into death, Louisa McCarthy as Isabel the sweet and innocent friend of Florinda at court and Luke Evans as Isabel’s husband, Theo, who sang one of the other stand out songs ‘’I stayed behind’, a narrative of the final battle.

The set was very effective , a wooden structure (reminiscent of Martin Guerre) with several doors which provided many back drops, a revolve which swiftly changed the scene. This was used extremely effectively during the scene on the eve of the battle as each side of the revolve had the opposing sides camp and as the stage revolved the goings on in each camp could be revealed at the same time. This scene culminated in the song '‘ fall with you' which cleverly had Julian and Roderic singing from their opposing camps. The final scene showing the aftermath of the battle is ingeniously lower as a drawbridge from the back of the stage and the scene is immediately changed to the battle scene with dead bodies littered amongst dying fires. Florinda arrives at this scene to find the King and as he dies in her arms Tariq (the moor) holds up the remains of the flag and declares victory.

The lighting was used to extremely good effective especially for the light streaming through the church windows and an earlier scene where as Queen Exilona stands watching Roderic disappear once more from her presence the light turns around her so that at the end of the song the light comes from the doorway and she can be seen in the shadows.

The show was not perfect and though the score was pleasant and gave the cast opportunities to show their voices and had some songs which I would like to hear more off it was overall it didn’t’ have an instant impact. The composers have been blessed with performers of a high calibre who give the score a boost in their deliverance of the songs. I hope to have the opportunity to hear the score in the future.

I would have liked to have seen more relationship development between Florinda and Somal, Isabel and Theo and Florinda and the King. For the latter the book didn’t show enough of the reasons for Florinda's change of heart as barely a month after the death of Somal her thoughts of revenge were turning to love. Somal’s memory was quickly locked into the depths of her soul. The final scene shows Florinda devastated with Roderic’s death but showing no thought for her father’s fate, her learning of his death as well would have created a more devastating finale.

Mitch Sebastian provided energetic routines which were performed with precision and enthusiasm by the cast although I did feel the Berber’s dance was superfluous to the story as it neither advanced or provided further detail of the story.

All in all I really enjoyed La Cava, found the story interesting and it kept my interest for the duration of the show. I would recommend La Cava and would gladly see the show again.

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