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Musical World

Martin Duncan

  • Director, Artistic/Stage


Martin Duncan press reviews

DOVE: 'The Adventures of Pinocchio' - Opera North
The opera is also unimaginable without...Martin Duncan's astonishing production...Duncan...turns the stage into a literal box of magic tricks that leaves adults as well as kids gasping with wonder and surprise. Beautiful stuff and enchanting from start to finish.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 20th September 2010
Martin Duncan has returned to revive a production teeming with inventive
imagination and realised with virtuoso beauty in the woody sets and exquisite
costumes...There are fairgrounds, trials, hangings, luscious love duets, good fairies and picaresque scenes that metamorphose one into another before you know it...Once seen and heard, never forgotten. 
Hilary Finch, The Times, September 2010
Martin Duncan’s direction is flawless and he manages to get a wonderful mix of endearing performances from this talented company.
Audrey Pointer,, 17th September 2010
But it’s the delirious inventiveness of Martin Duncan’s direction... which really startle.
Graham Rickson,, 17th September 2010
VERDI: 'La forza del destino' - Opera Holland Park
Neither of London’s leading companies, English National Opera or the Royal Opera, has successfully tackled Verdi’s most problematic mature opera in the past 30 years, so OHP’s achievement is all the more remarkable. The opera’s action encompasses six scenes, divided between Spain and Italy. Yet the director, Martin Duncan, and his economical designer, Alison Chitty, make light of the opera’s scenographic demands by virtually making do without scenery. A wide, expansive stage and a crumpled black curtain covering the theatre’s portico back wall might seem excessively austere for an opera that moves from an aristocratic palace, via an inn and a monastery in Spain, to a battlefield in Italy, then back to the Spanish monastery. Yet in this production, updated to the Spanish civil war, Duncan and Chitty achieve a kind of cinematic fluidity, with each scene "dissolving" thanks to the simple means of the chorus moving furniture — blood-smeared in the war scenes — and a portable crucifix. An opera that can be interminable, with endless changes of set, is here an unusually coherent, dramatically taut and almost Shakespearian drama; the 3 hours speed by.
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 1st July 2010
Full marks to Opera Holland Park for giving La forza del destino a go. There is no scope for lavish productions at this venue, so director Martin Duncan has made a virtue out of necessity. He leaves the stage almost bare of decoration and fills it with a panorama of low-class humanity instead – raucous, seething crowds of peasants and soldiers, whose irrepressible energy is the counterpart to the negative force of the demon at work elsewhere. This is true to Verdi’s own view of the opera and turns it into a rousing evening in the theatre.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 30th July 2010
 Yet it is a mark of the strength of Martin Duncan's production – with starkly atmospheric designs by Alison Chitty, and imaginatively lit by Mark Jonathan – that the plot's concentric circles not only hold together but steadily tighten their grip right up to the unexpected final glimpse of redemption.
George Hall, The Guardian, 28th July 2010
Martin Duncan’s staging wisely strips the action down to a bare minimum, vaguely but appropriately suggesting the Spanish Civil War. Alison Chitty’s set is a crumpled black canvas, and the only props are chairs. By refusing to present the creaking melodrama as in any sense realistic, Duncan frees the opera up and stops the audience fretting about its implausibility.
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 28th July 2010
ARNE: 'Artaxerxes' - Classical Opera Company/Linbury Studio
The resulting production, directed by Martin an absolute gem.
John-Pierre Joyce, 2nd November 2009,
Director Martin Duncan responds to the challenges with a simple set and gorgeous costumes, and by keeping the narrative crystal clear.
Warwick Thompson, 3rd November 2009, Metro
Martin Duncan's staging, designed by Johan Engels, is simple and elegant...Duncan understands that intellectual conceptualising and in-depth psychology have no place here - this is a floor show never intended as more than sophisticated entertainment, and here it's been gorgeously realised.
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, October 2009
However, Martin Duncan's simple, stylised production takes the opera very seriously, with beautiful and often absorbing results.
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 1st November 2009
The unusual performing space, with its sunken exposed pit, was fully exploited by director Martin Duncan, who celebrated the orchestral strengths of the music by blurring the divide between pit and stage, placing musicians (notably a pair of early clarinets) onstgae, and having at lest one aria sung from within the pit. This spatial fluidity and informality worked well in conjunction with the stiffer, more formalised movement of the singers, creating a gently unselfconscious sort of meta-theatre.
Alexandra Coghlan,, October 2009 are transported by Martin Duncan and his creative team into a truly fantastical world.
Alexandra Coghlan,, October 2009
For a start, it looks ravishing. Martin Duncan's staging uses nothing except costumes, screens, masked mimes and one amazing, gold-armoured imperial statue.
Richard Morrison, The Times, 2nd November 2009
Director Martin Duncan gives it a splendid productions, with fabulous designs, tinged with orientalism...A quartet of dark, faceless figures, lurk, shadow and push people into position, like Japanese puppeteers, and Duncan pitches the level of stylisation just right.
Simon Thomas,, 31st October 2009
Gilbert and Sullivan 'Patience' - BBC Proms/Royal Albert Hall
You can't ask for a whole lot more than this delicious slice of English eccentricity played out in full costume (director Martin Duncan)...
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, 12 August 2009
Martin Duncan's production - described as "semi-staging" but lacking only a full set to make it complete - was a supremely intelligent affair that retained bothe the original period and dialogue, and managed always to teeter on the edge of camp without ever sliding into it.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 12 August 2009