Arts Review: The Devil Inside

Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, 23rd – 26th January 2016

The Devil Inside, by Stuart McRae and Louise Welsh is a new opera based on the Robert Louis Stevenson tale: The Bottle Imp. The story follows James, played by Ben McAteer, and Richard, Nicholas Sharratt, in their dealings with an imp in a bottle who grants wishes. The wishes come with the condition that the bottle must be sold on for less money that what it was bought for, and must be sold before death or else its owner will burn in hell.

The story fits effortlessly to music and the score maintains a constant energy throughout. The composition is sparing, the 14 piece orchestra balances the four voices without risk of overpowering them. The singing seamlessly blends with the orchestra and the restlessness of the score drives the performance onwards to the inevitable end.

The voice of the imp is portrayed through the music, whilst visually appearing through the swirling light inside the bottle. This creates a tension and fear of the imp as its appearance and true voice are never revealed to the audience, and additionally leaves these things up to the audience’s imagination which proves to be all the more terrifying.

Ben McAteer confidently leads as the main vocalist and is well supported by Nicholas Sharratt, Rachel Kelly and Stephen Page. Kelly’s vocals are refreshing as she carries the most traditionally tuneful melodies, although the underlying tension of the score is ever present. Michael Rafferty conducts a clean-cut and excellently precise performance with constant momentum.

The tale fits beautifully to music and the composition captures the characters’ descent into madness perfectly. The audience aren’t afforded the chance to relax in this ever moving tale which brings with it excitement. Altogether an incredibly enjoyable, refreshing and well executed performance.

[Chloe Tobin-Kemmer]

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