REVIEW: The Rake's Progress, Sheffield Lyceum - 'A devil of an opera'

STRAVINSKY'S take on Hogarth's 18th century paintings of debauchery, The Rake's Progress makes for a devil of an opera.
English Touring Opera's production of The Rake's ProgressEnglish Touring Opera's production of The Rake's Progress
English Touring Opera's production of The Rake's Progress

Director Polly Graham complements the wonderful score with a playful touch that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable production from the English Touring Opera.

Lazy country boy Tom Rakewell wants to see the world but doesn't know how to pay for it.

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He's in love but wants to break free from convention and follow his true nature.

Befriended by the mysterious Nick Shadow, who announces Tom is the heir to a fortune, he's persuaded to leave the provinces for the high life in London, abandoning his fiancee, touring brothels and marrying a bearded woman from the circus along the way.

Predictably, he ends up broke and losing his mind, after making a disastrous investment in a bread machine – an ingenious device you'd definitely buy on eBay – so the dogs of debt are chasing him to the real-life Bedlam asylum.

Is it all a nightmare?

There's a lot going on, with delicious moments that include bearded Baba sat astride a lofty horse – a sedan in the original – to delightful effect.

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Designer April Danton's set, including a Punch and Judy stall, keeps the audience guessing, with maypoles in the opening scene used for darker purposes later.

Brenton Spiteri, replacing the ill Frederick Jones, is a joy to behold as Tom, with a great voice and enormous energy.

He's matched by his demonic partner in crime Jerome Knox, as smiling demonic villain Shadow.

Nazan Fikret as Anne Trulove, shows off her beautiful voice, as she, sword in hand, pursues Tom, until a twist towards the end.

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Robin Bailey has a great time as the auctioneer Sellem as he flogs off Tom's household junk.

Amy J Payne enjoys herself immensely playing Mother Goose and Trevor Eliot Bowes is a suitably stern Father Trulove.

Lauren Young adds real star quality, with fine vocals and assured comic timing as Baba.

Conductor Jack Sheen leads the orchestra in some fine playing, with a talented ensemble chorus in fine form.

And, of course, the old saying that the devil makes work for idle hands proves true by the close.