Porgy and Bess tells the story of cripple Porgy and outcast, drug-taking Bess, two of the residents of Catfish Row, Georgia, in the 1920s. It was written by George and Ira Gershwin as an opera, but this production leans more towards the musical. The setting of the Open Air Theatre proved a perfect one: as the light faded, tragedy dogged the characters.
I thought the music was beautiful, and very well sung by all the cast, including Rufus Bonds Jr as Porgy, and Yemie Sonuga (understudying Bess), not to mention Sharon D Clarke and Jade Ewen (the ex-Sugababe) in strong supporting roles. The simple design and sparse staging worked well: for instance, to demonstrate the community’s feeling towards Bess, the cast turned their chairs away from her – simple but effective.
The show is gritty, tense and tragic, yet not without the lightheartedness and optimism that characterises many of the musicals from the early 20th century. I loved the show, and it has the potential to become one of my favourites.