A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

About Crabbe

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There’s been a bit of taking sides about Neil Armfield’s inclusion of a prominent non-speaking, all-seeing role for a gentleman named Dr Crabbe. For what it’s worth, here’s where I stand.

First, it was a beautiful performance. Again, like the set, it was always going to be risky, and in the wrong hands it could be intrusive and embarrassing, even arrogant. Thankfully, it was in the right hands. It is hard to imagine another actor who could have played this role with such delicacy and gravitas. Peter Carroll rocks.

Second and, again, like the set, Armfield’s Crabbe conceit was, for me, another part of the seamlessness of the how this story leapt from page to stage to the inside of my head. To say I didn’t notice Crabbe is obviously wrong. But he was such a plausible member of the community, such an intrinsic part of the drama, that he didn’t cause me a moment’s pause.

Third, and perhaps most important, the introduction of a character who is not explicitly described in the composer’s score or directions is a natural and entirely appropriate gesture for a work which has ceased to be the sole domain of its creator. Pretty much everyone recognises Peter Grimes as a work which has earned an enduring posi in the repertoire. Which means it is out there, in the world, still related to Britten (and Pears, and Crabbe, and Montagu Slater) but making its own way. It is an exciting place to be. Persnally speaking, I’m not yet ready for a Peter Grimes set on Mars but, hey, if it makes good theatre…

(As a side comment, the alternative is to be one of those execrable set-in-stone shows like Phantom or Les Mis. Or rather, preserved in aspic, because they can still move, physically and emotionally, but in a rather wobbly and disturbing way.)

Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

One thought on “About Crabbe

  1. «a character who is not explicitly described in the composer’s score or directions»
    I guess this may be so, but the other characters referred to/addressed him by name on at least two occasions in the opera, so I, as a Peter Grimes novice, assumed him to be a legitimate member of the cast. Actually, I adored Dr Crabbe, especially in the hands of Peter Carroll, and if his inclusion is Neil Armfield’s invention, then my applause for him redoubles.

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