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Reviewer Preston Witts is enchanted by the portrayal of Imogen Holst and Benjamin Britten in Ben and Imo at the RSC’s Swan Theatre until 6th April





IF anything could be described as an “Imogen Holst Revival” it’s happening right now on the stage of the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford.

This daughter of the great English composer Gustav Holst – the man who wrote The Planets – is being given a mesmerising portrayal by the actress Victoria Yeates in a drama exploring the very nature of creative genius.

Sam Barnett and Victoria Yeates in Ben and Imo. Photos: Ellie Kurttz/RSC
Sam Barnett and Victoria Yeates in Ben and Imo. Photos: Ellie Kurttz/RSC

The genius in this case is not Imogen Holst (though in many ways it ought to be). It is the composer Benjamin Britten, whom she assisted in the writing of Gloriana, the opera produced to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

In Mark Ravenhill’s play Ben and Imo Ms Yeates lights up the stage with a demonstration of creative genius of her own – not only acting brilliantly, but dancing as well, with a spot of singing thrown in for good measure.

Sam Barnett and Victoria Yeates in Ben and Imo. Photos: Ellie Kurttz/RSC
Sam Barnett and Victoria Yeates in Ben and Imo. Photos: Ellie Kurttz/RSC

As for acting, the man playing Britten (Samuel Barnett) is not bad either. In fact, he gives a pretty good impression of a composer wracked by self-doubt, indecision and artistic neurosis in this account of the highly-strung relationship between the two hugely gifted musicians.



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