For many directors the set would have been a gamble. Even Armfield says that it is a reference to the magic of the final rehearsals, an admission which lays it open to accusations of po-mo, referential, meta-this, meta-that in-house stage-y-ness. Which I LOVE, as many do, but it’s kind of cheating. But the set here took me back, with fierce clarity, to a village hall in South England (where I was brought up), and to all those curious relationships you have with neighbours and family and the-lady-who-works-at-the-post-office and the-man-with-the-hat-on-the-139. I spent the first act being fascinated by the people — the methodist, so beautifully observed, and Mrs Sedley, a curtain twitcher if ever I saw one.
Against this fascinating foreground there was, in the background, a story playing out. It felt almost like a Breughel painting — Icarus making a minor splash in the corner of the painting. OK, Peter Grimes did play out his story in a slightly more centre stage manner but, as Britten and Pears and Crabbe and Armfield and everyone on stage demonstrates at the end of the piece, life goes on, with astonishing consistency.
This isn’t a review and this blog isn’t going to be about reviewing. It’s more a thoughtwhirl. For what it is worth, Peter Grimes is terrific. If you’re in Sydney in October 2009 you should see it, and if you’re not, you should go to Perth. But if you miss it, well, life goes on.