Richard Burkhard as Nikita in 'The Portrait'

Hello again, and welcome back to my ‘Portrait’ blog. I have a confession, I’m not on ‘Facebook‘, nor do I know what is involved in ‘Tweeting’…weird I know!. so you could say I’m absolutely the wrong sort of person to whip up enthusiasm about an opera that has never been performed in this country. Well, judging by the audience’s reaction to this evening’s Dress Rehearsal I would say that ‘The Portrait’ deserves a regular place in the repertoire, not just because of the wonderful characters but because of it’s sparkling orchestration.

Of course I’m biased, after all, this show represents a new departure for me. Not in the sense that I’m playing a servant role (I’ve played plenty of those), and not because the music is particularly difficult, but…and this is 21st Century Opera for you…because my make-up is being ‘air-brushed’ on! Now most folk are air-brushed to improve their looks, but by the time my gorgeous make-up girl Carrie has finished, she has created a filthy, pox-ridden serf, with serious dental hygiene issues. What fun! Carrie plugs in the machine, drips liquid pigment into a steel pen, and, with a deft press of a button, blows a dizzying array of colours across my face. The result is truly horrible (in a good way!), and I’ve been enjoying some genuinely disgusted reactions in the wings. I don’t think I really knew what I was going to do with the role of Nikita until I saw the costume and make-up…sometimes it’s like that.

As I say, the reaction this evening was very encouraging. As well as telling the story, David Pountney, the director, and Dan Potra, the designer, have created a world of exaggerated, absurdist characters, larger than life, and full of colour. It’s a wonderful spectacle. Without giving away too much, characters fly in and out on wires, some incredibly tall, others absurdly small. In a nutshell, it’s a joy to be involved in something so unashamedly theatrical, but with a serious message too. As performers it’s an environment where we can feel free to experiment and have fun. I hope the audience (that’s you by the way!) will enjoy it as much as we are.

Richard Burkhard

The Portrait opens in Leeds on Wednesday 2nd Feb, then touring to Newcastle Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Nottingham and The Lowry, Salford Quays.