London Theatre Guide: Wagner And Monkeys!

Keith McDonnell
Authored by
Keith McDonnell

August 1, 2013
3:39 a.m.

So, dear readers, after 16 hours of music, Wagner’s epic ‘Ring Cycle’ came to a close on Sunday evening with an astonishing performance of ‘Götterdämmerung‘ – that’s “The Twilight of the Gods” to you and me.

It was the crowning glory of an unforgettable week of Wagnerian splendour at the Proms that left critics and audiences alike grasping for superlatives.

It’s the longest opera in the Cycle, coming in just short of six hours (including two half-hour intervals), so I pitied and admired the Prommers who stood throughout. I couldn’t have done it (well I could, but I wouldn’t have been particularly happy about it). The sense of collective concentration was like nothing I’ve witnessed at a live ‘gig’ before.

All the singing was top notch whilst the orchestral playing was beyond praise. It was the aural equivalent of rolling around on massive shag-pile carpet – luxuriant, immensely pleasurable and a little bit self-indulgent all at the same time.

As conductor Daniel Barenboim lowered his baton after the final chord had rung out within the vast expanses of The Royal Albert Hall, there were 15 seconds of total silence before the audience erupted into a standing ovation that lasted almost half an hour.

Then the unexpected happened as Barenboim silenced the cheering hordes to thank us for our silence. Both he and the orchestra were quite overwhelmed at how attentively we’d listened, and he wanted to say how much he, and they, had appreciated our impeccable behaviour.

It was totally amazeballs! More clapping – sore hands and throats the next day, but it was all worthwhile. Without going too OTT it was one of the finest evenings I’ve ever spent at the opera, and I’ve been going regularly for almost 30 years now. Yes – I know what you’re thinking – he must have only been five when he first started going! If only that were true!


Hands up if you like monkeys? Hands up if you’d like to put your hand up a monkey!? Just to be clear, there’s no link here from Wagner. Nor am I encouraging the fisting of monkeys, as that would be bad, but I am talking about the age old art of ventriloquism…

Back when I was a kid, this usually meant a dodgy old guy with a moth-eaten manikin perched on his knee trying to say ‘Gottle of geer.’ Things have changed, and one of the finest ventriloquists/comedians of her generation, the hugely talented Nina Conti, is currently treading the boards at the Soho Theatre.

Conti has an assortment of characters, including Monk (the monkey I was referring to earlier). All of whom don’t bat an eyelid at having her hand shoved up their ass. The show is entitled Dolly Mixtures and is described as a ‘thoughtful meditation on love, life and the edge of existence.’ But be prepared to let tears of laughter roll down your cheeks. Not to be missed!


Anonymous User
waltersmiiith (Guest)
8 years, 4 months ago

wait slow down for a second.. you went to a 6 hour opera? oh m gee. That is admirable in itself. It sounds like a great show though!