Noah’s Flood is a co-production by Slung Low and Manchester Collective for Leeds 2023 and Manchester International Festival (MIF). It is directed by Slung Low’s Artistic Director Alan Lane and conducted by Nicholas Chalmers, with the Animal Chorus directed in rehearsals by Ellie Slorach and Charlie Perry.

Featuring performances from the Hallé Youth Ensembles and Ingram Road Primary School, Benjamin Britten’s 1958 Community Opera Noah’s Flood has been a real labour of love from the start. Britten included local and amateur groups in his original production and specified that it should be performed in churches and halls – not in theatres. Now performed at Mayfield Depot, with the rumble of trains pulling into Manchester Piccadilly station overhead, I did feel as if it were really coming back to its roots. 

Predictably, the stars of the show are the young performers who play Noah’s children and the animals on the arc. You don’t really expect easter eggs in a Biblical story, but I especially enjoyed spotting (amongst pairs of lions, tigers, zebras) a lone child dressed as a dragon, another as a unicorn – two animals who were clearly mate-less on the Arc. Another highlight is the comical dance between the birds who fly off to find land and the adult chaperones who direct the children on and off stage as if they are marshalling an aeroplane. 

Incredible performances also come from Morgan Pearse as Noah, Heather Lowe as Mrs Noah, and Lemn Sissay as God. Sissay particularly does wonders with the Middle English language, but any words we may have missed were aided by creative captioning projected onto the back wall of the space. Less helpful was the size of the text chosen for the hymns we had to sing – this was the second MIF show I’ve seen where the audience is asked to sing along – but for Noah’s Flood we are a congregation, after all. 

Noah’s Flood began in 1958 as a community effort. As the opera neared its completion, Britten apparently discovered a community handbell group and rewrote the show to include them. That attitude has noticeably been carried through to Slung Low’s production, and the result is a lovely coming together of all ages and abilities.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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