The Maestro's Last Words, by Barry Langley. Director Orsolya Nagy. At the OSO Arts Centre 4-8 February 2020
The OSO (Old Sorting Office) is a fringe theatre set in the beautiful location of Barnes Green. Every week they perform new works of theatre, music and comedy in their 74 seat auditorium. They are also available to hire for private functions.
Barry Langley's new play was originally scheduled to be performed at the OSO in 2015. Following the untimely death of the artistic director, the project was shelved until last year, when the production manager at the OSO, Laura Sedgwick, found the manuscript in a drawer, read it and liked it. It was worth the wait.
The Maestro of the title, renowned orchestra director Sir Charles Ackroyd, (Edmund Dehn), reels into his dressing room having been taken ill during the performance, but having, consummate showman that he is, managed to battle through until the end. His secretary and manager ply him with brandy and insist he consults with his old school rival, the eminent surgeonProfessor Gault (Martin Wimbush), who happens to be out front, invited, to Ackroyd's annoyance, by his own long term on-off lover, the famous soprano Maggie Fontana (Violetta Gapardi). After some verbal sparring, it's agreed that Ackroyd will be admitted to hospital that evening for an emergency thyroidectomy performed by Gault.
Act two takes place in the hospital. Convinced now that he's going to die, Ackroyd becomes obsessed with his own immortality. Should he compose a masterpiece, or be the subject of a great biography? At the very least, he must ensure his dying words are remembered forever. To this end he dictates a waspishly witty sentence to his naive young night nurse (Mimi Tizzano). Post surgery, the following day, it seems that all has gone well. The nurse, feeling she's been played, tears up The Maestro's last words, only for a devastating twist to reveal that the old showman possesses a heart after all.
Dehn's portrayal of the combined insecurity and arrogance of the great artist convinces utterly as does Wimbush's of the renowned surgeon's callousness and graveyard humour, while Gapardi's rendition of the Song to the Moon makes our spines tingle. The Maestro's Last Words is witty, enjoyable and ultimately extremely moving. It runs at the OSO until 8 February. Catch it if you can.
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