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Sellars’s salutary gospel truth for ENO

Magdalene hellish tale is an experience to remember, writes Peter Lindley

The Gospel According to the Other Mary at the Coliseum, London WC2

5/5

FEATURING a vibrant musical score by post-minimalist composer John Adams, a libretto and stage direction by Peter Sellars and a fraught representation of Mary Magdalene as a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, The Gospel According to the Other Mary is a pretty challenging experience.

It's by no means sacrilegious and any sense of irreverence is marginalised in pursuit of social comment in this world premiere production by English National Opera.

This poverty-stricken Mary Magdalene exists in a hell of anguish.

Beneath CCTV cameras and behind a barbed-wire fence, she admits to self-harm and finds it difficult to kneel and pray. Any of the quasi-romantic sanctity usually associated with the biblical story is ripped apart.

Mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon as Magdalene quickly tugs at the heart-strings with an impassioned performance, as does the captivating power of Russell Thomas Lazarus and the beautiful counter-tenor of Daniel Bubeck pas one of the desert combat-clad seraphim.

Yet the production's wow-factor, moving it into five-star rating territory, arrives in the irresistible force of flex dancer "Banks" - James Davis - as the angel Gabriel.

He gives a bravura performance, combining breathtakingly rapid gesture - as if hit by strobe lighting - phenomenally controlled slo-mo and jaw-dropping spring-heeled elevations.

Simply brilliant.

Runs until December 5, box office: eno.org.

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