Social comedy at its most lovingly, evocatively drawn - Alexandra Coghlan, Spectator
Benjamin Britten (1913 - 76)
Sung in English, with side-titles
A Buxton Festival production with the NCO Festival Orchestra
There’s a crisis in the Suffolk town of Loxford. The day of the annual May Festival is getting closer, and all the possible candidates for the role of May Queen have been deemed unsuitable by the formidable Lady Billows and her committee of civic bigwigs. Then a new idea comes up – why not break with tradition and appoint a May King, as a suitably virginal young man presents himself: the greengrocer’s son, Albert Herring.
Francis Matthews, whose 2016 production of Tamerlano was nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award, returns to Buxton to direct Britten’s sparkling comedy of small-town life, conducted by Justin Doyle.
‘Francis Matthews’s Herring is so overflowing with anarchic glee that it quite literally spills out from under the curtain‘ – Spectator
In the Suffolk village of Loxford, all the local bigwigs have been gathered by the formidable Lady Billows to elect this year’s May Queen. Several candidates are put forward but are deemed unsuitable: with Lady Billows’ housekeeper Florence Pike has dug up dirt on each of them. Then a new idea comes up – why not break with tradition and appoint a May King. There is a suitably virginal young man: the greengrocer’s son, Albert Herring.
In the greengrocer’s shop, Albert is teased first by local children, then by worldly butcher Sid, and looks on bewildered while Sid flirts with his girlfriend Nancy. Albert reflects on life under his mother’s thumb. The Festival Committee arrives with the news of his selection as May King. Mrs Herring is thrilled, but Albert fears humiliation from the village.
On the day of the Festival, Sid and Nancy spike Albert’s lemonade with rum. Albert is crowned the May King, but is tongue-tied when called upon to make a speech, descending into a fit of hiccups as he drinks the lemonade.
That night, Albert arrives home alone and quite drunk. He overhears Sid and Nancy planning a nocturnal tryst, and – confused, jealous and frustrated – takes his prize money of £25 and runs off in search of adventure.
The village is in uproar following Albert’s disappearance. Rumours abound that Albert is dead, but he returns, regaling the outraged Festival Committee with tales of his drunken debauchery at their expense. He stands up to his mother, and – with a new authority – gives out free fruit to the suddenly respectful village children.
Repetiteur & Head of Music
The NCO Festival Orchestra
22 July 2017
7.15pm - 9.55pm
£20 - £75
Buxton Opera House