Alex Massie

Carmen May Seriously Damage Your Health...

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Anthony Holden in The Observer:

Carmen is back at Covent Garden for the first time since last summer's Orwellian smoking ban and I'm delighted to report that the Royal Opera has taken not the slightest notice. If there's any opera in which onstage smoking should be mandatory, this is it. Cigarette girls and soldiers alike all puff their heads off during the first act, to the point where the fumes drift gratifyingly into mid-stalls. And, even better, there are none of those ludicrous health-and-safety signs out front, as, for instance, at the Old Vic, to warn us of the perils of entering a smoke-stained auditorium.

Of course in plucky Scotland this production would be shut down by zealous council officials. The smoking ban in Scotland is so absurd that even smoking herbal cigarettes on stage is prohibited, presumably lest this too persuade impressionable audiences to take up the noble habit. Such is life in brave new Scotland.

Consequently there are some plays that it is simply not possible to produce in Scotland anymore, among them Pirandello's sweet-yet-disturbing The Man With the Flower in his Mouth* since smoking is a central, irreplaceable part of this two-hander.

*Especially irritating to me since I appeared in a (successful!) Dublin University Players production of the play. TMWTFIHM was also, incidentally the first drama ever broadcast on television by the BBC.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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