Review: The Elixir of Love

King's Head Theatre
4 star rating
A new English version of Donizetti's popular comic opera finds its mark with terrific singing combined with a simple plot, a cleverly-adapted libretto and bags of humour. Great fun.
The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Theatre

Image courtesy King's Head Theatre

Show details

Show information

Closed here Saturday 26 October 2019

Cast and creatives


Adina: Alys Roberts

Gina: Caroline Taylor

Nicky: David Powton

Brandon: Themba Mvula

Dulcamara: Matt Kellett


Brandon: Theo Perry

Gina: Shana Moron-Caravel

Adina: Caroline Taylor

Main cast do all performances except:

Tuesday 1st October: Theo Perry covering Themba Mvula (Brandon)

Wednesday 9th October (Matinee): Shana Moron-Caravel covering Caroline Taylor (Gina) & Caroline Taylor covering Alys Roberts (Adina)

Wednesday 9th October (Evening): Shana Moron-Caravel covering Caroline Taylor (Gina)

Tuesday 15th October: Theo Perry covering Themba Mvula (Brandon) & Shana Moron-Caravel covering Caroline Taylor (Gina) & Caroline Taylor covering Alys Roberts (Adina)

Tuesday 22nd October: Theo Perry covering Themba Mvula (Brandon)

Saturday 26th October (Matinee & Evening): Theo Perry covering Themba Mvula (Brandon)


Hannah Noone
Chris Harris - Co-librettist; David Eaton - Co-librettist
Gaetano Donizetti
Musical direction
David Eaton
Amanda Mascarenhas
Nic Farman


The King's Head Theatre's final opera production of 2019 is the The Elixir of Love as you've never seen it before.

This new English version of Donizetti's dazzling comic opera blends the sensational music with a decidedly different take on the astonishing tale of romance and magic.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Monday 30 September 2019
Review star rating image

Gaetano Donizetti's two act comic opera L'elisir d'amore gets a modern reworking in a new English version by Chris Harris and David Eaton, making this ever-popular work more accessible for what should easily prove an even wider audience.

Not that Donizetti's work has ever wanted for much in the way of success.

Premiering in 1832, it quickly established a substantial reputation and was the most often performed opera in Italy up to the middle of the 19th century.

Since then it's managed to maintain it's popularity getting rather more than its fair share of operatic stage time.

No wonder, then, that Islington's King's Head Theatre eagerly snapped-up this new version given the venue's worthy intent to make high quality opera available to more theatregoers through its leading position on London's fringe scene.

We get transported back to Barry in the south of Wales just prior to the start of the Falklands War - so we're in the early part of 1982 at the outset of this uncomplicated yet appealing story.

David Powton's love-sick Nicky is enamoured with Adina (played by Alys Roberts) who is the attractive owner of a cafe where one can get a coffee and some Welsh cake for a mere 90 pence.

In spite of the fact that Nicky spends most of his time slurping Adina's coffee, he can't find the inner courage to declare his love and sweep her off her feet.

Cast of The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Theatre

(From left) Alys Roberts (Adina), Themba Mvula (Brandon), Caroline Taylor (Gina) - photo (c) Bill Knight

And matters become more complicated and gloomy for the hapless Nicky once a 'casanova' naval captain called Brandon fetches up on leave and becomes a formidable competitor for Adina's affections.

Nicky's hopes of a romantic entanglement with Adina seem dashed but then a travelling quack doctor called Dulcamara arrives on the scene selling love potions and offering an instant resolution.

Clutching at straws, Nicky is quickly duped into buying a bottle of the (supposedly) fabulous liquor - with Dulcamara insisting it needs a day to work in order to give him time to safely flee the area.

Matthew Kellett as Dulcamara in The Elixir of Love at the King's Head Theatre

Matthew Kellett as Dulcamara - photo (c) Bill Knight

Though Alys Roberts and David Powton have the best songs, it's Matthew Kellett's charmingly duplicitous but affable Dulcamara who pretty-much steals the show, getting a particularly appreciative reception from the responsive audience.

For those who don't necessarily head out to opera very often this is the perfect vehicle to introduce you to the genre - and possibly turn you into an addict.

But there's plenty to admire here for everyone - opera aficionados included, I would think.

Simple piano accompaniment means that the singing never gets drowned out and the English lyrics are delivered in crystal clear fashion by a team of terrific, highly talented singers.

A simple but compelling storyline transcribed into modern-day language (suitably peppered with earthy expletives) provides plenty of comedy and is comprehensible to all.

Two fairly short acts split by an interval make this a swiftly delivered affair.

If that sounds like it's a touch too short, it really isn't - more a case of being ample without becoming stale, laboured or in any way overbaked.

There's more comedy in the first act, but the compensation come the second is that there are some lovely, rich melodies to savour especially from Alys Roberts and David Powton, both in fine form.

Ably building on Donizetti's original rather than taking extreme liberties with it, The Elixir of Love proves hugely impressive and great fun too.

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