The Devil Inside, Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales – review by Pat Byrne

the devil inside


Jim and I had our first night at the opera last night (26 January, 2016), when we went along to the Theatre Royal, Glasgow to the world premiere of ‘The Devil Inside’.  The opera, created by Louise Welsh, librettist, and Stuart MacRae, composer, is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story ‘The Bottle Imp’.

It certainly was a sinister plot with the issues of greed, desire, addiction, temptation – and love – all successfully covered as the characters, (Richard, James, Catherine and the Old Man), struggle with the hold the imp in the bottle holds over them.  The sinister plot kicks off when the two young backpackers, Richard and James, come across a wealthy old man who sells them the bottle with the imp inside; offering them all their hearts desire.  The opportunity to acquire great riches and a charmed life comes with conditions: the bottle must be sold on, each time at a lower cost or on death the owner will face eternal damnation.  The grip the imp has on the lives of the owners ,and the need to sell the bottle, are central to the opera’s eerie story as we see their lives spiralling out of control. 

the devil insideIt makes events more enjoyable when you’re familiar with some of the creative minds behind the production.  I know virtually nothing about opera so my ability to comment is somewhat limited but I am well acquainted with Louise Welsh’s writing and have often met her at literary events. I was particularly interested in the language used by the librettist, how the words were chosen to fit with the music, the phrasing and the way she brought the tale right up to date.  The translation and updating of Stevenson’s story appear to me to present a complicated task but the composer and librettist’s creative partnership rises very successfully to this challenge. I can only speculate on what a tremendous work ethic the pair must have to create such a creepy, absorbing and effective production.

pat zoe louise marian

Pat Byrne, Zoe Strachan, Louise Welsh and Marian Colquhoun

I was also fascinated by the set and the stage looked wonderful with changing back drops and the sensation of movement working very smoothly – with the rather threatening stage hands adding an additional touch of darkness. My interest in the props was particularly aroused as Marian Colquhoun, Head of Props at Scottish Opera, came to chat to us before the show.  Marian is Jim’s cousin, whom I had never met before – previously she’d lived in London working with the Royal Opera.   It seemed to me that ‘The Devil Inside’ must have been a particularly demanding venture regarding props, with a need for  creative, practical and technical ability required.  Like the rest of the show – the props were a triumph.

The rapturous response of the audience at the close of the world premiere could not have provided a more emphatic stamp of approval.

I’m very glad we caught the show.

Cast and Creative Team

Co-commission and Co-Production Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales

Music  – Stuart MacRae

Words – Louise Welsh

Conductor – Michael Rafferty

Director – Matthew Richardson

Designer – Samal Blak

Lighting  –Ace McCarron

Props – Marian Colquhoun

Catherine – Rachel Kelly

Richard – Nicholas Sharratt

James  – Ben McAteer

Old Man/Vagrant – Steven Page

Tour details and tickets

Louise Welsh, Glasgow Writer

Pat Byrne,

27 January, 2016


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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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