Wedmore (Somerset) 12th-15thJuly 2000

"Clio’s Cosmetics"

Other than the summer had previously augured, JAGO did not turn into just another Glastonbury onslaught of rain. Therefore those involved and visitors from the UK and abroad enjoyed a comfortable environs serviced with ice cream, drinks and a selection of food. Another memorable feature of this festival was the familiar atmosphere where you kept meeting participants in the play for days in the village streets.

As this was my first time to an opera, I didn't know what to expect. I did find however that Mike Westbrook’s hand was distinctly recognizable in the music and (I quote an informee here) "Mike has put in all the experience of a lifetime." The outstanding job done by the orchestra, who were really into the music, and some remarkable voices (to name just one instance: Sarah Minns, as Verity, whom I could well picture performing Elizabethan songs) balanced the music as in it's own right and as supportive of the play.

Les Skidmore, as Dog’s Meat Man, showed immense presence and expressive gestures from the beginnig and over the days the other actors shed their nervousness of the premiere and grew more at ease, so that a second viewing was particularly rewarding. Also by then I had worked out the who is who on this stage and my attention was free to skip from libretto to music to acting to overall impression.

For much of the play on the sloping stage (for better visibility) the villagers formed the community evocative of a Greek choir; yes, imagine a Greek choir who, to spontaneous applause, joines the orchestra in a joyous dance of Airmail Special! Here not only the props & costumes took the audience to the late 1940s, a period, or should I say spirit, that stretched well into the 1960s. So I felt transported back to encounter an amazing multitude of characters such as the strict & patriarchal Hender, the initially unforgiving Petty Officer Jay (quite a mouthful for every singer, a stage name like thunderclap and lightning) and Desiree, the girl back from town who is among the first to move on into a new era, at whom the community, firmly rooted in the past and partly envious, aim moral disapproval. The girl who befriends the German POW, the ex-showgirl, the soldier who grapples with his memories of war and many more, as individuals and as a community weave around and vary the pivotal story of Ann and Jago of moving on through guilt and forgiveness to hope and future.

JAGO is a seamless whole. Kate Westbrook’s admirable scientific construction of which - invisible, yet deducible - combines with the passionate observer and storyteller Kate Westbrook. A whole equally due to Mike Westbrook weaving the musical part to the fabric.

Westbrook & Westbrook have recorded history with truth, history as a means of insight into some of the driving forces and of looking forward.

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