REVIEW: Masterclass, Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth



There is something about the intimacy of a small theatre and how the sound resonates around and last night (5 February 2020) was no exception as we witnessed a spectacular production of ‘Masterclass’. A story which revolves around Maria Callas, the Greek soprano, as she  teaches a masterclass in front of a live audience, us.

This was a show that I did not really know what to expect,  indeed this was the first time I have ever been to The Shelley Theatre but we were greeted with a small intimate theatre shrouded in a cosy ambience, very comfortable seating and original brick work still bare which helped magnify the acoustics of the performance. The stage was set up with just a piano and a chair for our leading lady…. though she hardly sat on it!

This is a funny yet tragic story of Maria Callas, with her singing career coming to an end she has some students in for a masterclass. She teaches them all she knows which she does in her own intimating style, she helps pass on her life-long experiences to her students and reminisces about her past glory years both on the stage and in love: it’s sad, it’s tragic, it’s compelling.

Maria Callas is expertly played by Merilee Brunet, she entered the room with an air of authority, in a forthright commanding manner she asked for her first student, Sophie De Palma played by Mehreen Shah. Our poor student is then inundated with a string of constructive criticism which stretched from her ‘too short skirt’ through to her, in Maria Callas’ opinion, failure to understand and listen to the music.

The rapport between them is often funny, often quite blunt but we and our student knows that Maria is in fact right. Equally funny is the moment our student sings her first beautiful note, only for Maria to stop her in her tracks with Sophie sharing a face with the audience as if to say ‘hang on there I haven’t even started yet’. Its brilliant and all too soon we reach the interval, but before we do Maria reminisces with herself and the audience about her own past performance from that era.

What follows are a further two students, one a Baritone called Anthony Candolino played by James Hutchins who finally moves Maria with his impeccable voice. The other, Sharon Graham, played by Kelly-Anne Singleton, another soprano, who comes to class wearing a dress very much made for the part, very glamorous but it seems Maria still manages to toy with her mind. The show ends with Maria again going back to the past in her mind as she shares with us the sacrifices she made in her life for her career.

I loved this show, as did the whole audience, it’s one of those magical shows you will see and still remember in years to come and the cast all perform brilliantly and yes, they can all sing and do with crystal clear clarity as it reverberates around the room.

Masterclass runs through until and including Saturday 8 February at The Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth, Tickets can be found here or The Shelley Theatre

Reviewed by Brian Case, BH Living – February 2020 


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