IF YOU like a bit of culture with your comedy, this is the show for you.
For many people the Fringe can seem like an endless succession of stand-up comics but did a little deeper and there are some absolute gems out there, such as this show.
Now, if I describe it as a sort of “opera’s greatest hits mixed with some slapstick and pop music”, the opera aficionados among you might turn up your noses but bear with me, this show is far greater than the sum of those parts poorly described above.
I’m no opera buff. I’ve been to a couple and I know my Traviata from my Turandot – one’s a pasta dish from Naples and the other’s that thing where you swear at people, right? – but I recognised almost all of the tunes.
That said, there were some real fans in the theatre when I saw the show and many of them were gasping with delight when a particular favourite was belted out.
And you couldn’t hold them back when one of the cast got us to sing “la, la, la” and then led us into singing famous songs from Rigoletto and Traviata doing just that. Well, I was singing “la, la, la”, others knew the words…
By the way, I do mean “belted out”, in the best sense.
The five performers are all top opera operators and I could not help but be impressed at their sheer virtuosity – and volume. This is a big room and you could feel the power in their voices.
I have to say, I felt a bit sorry for the chap in the front row who had “I Will Always Love You” sung at him from point-blank range – his ears must still be ringing.
Unlike operas I’ve seen before there are no supertitles projected above the stage to translate, and alas I do not parliamo Italiano, in the words of the great Stanley Baxter.
But that didn’t dilute my enjoyment one jot. In fact, the cast communicates in cod-Italian and sounded – to me at least – like the Minions’ Roman cousins.
This is a comedy but we do have suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and despair – hey, it’s opera, remember!
There are two intertwining storylines, both of which draw you in brilliantly. In one a lady tries to win the heart of Alfredo, an ageing opera star who looked to me like none other than Grampa Munster and who has turned to the bottle – and perhaps the noose – as his voice fails him.
And in the other, a seemingly macho tenor falls for a young man who keeps trying to crowbar camp pop hits into his arias. Actually, that sounds like a great, lost Carry On gag…
This didn’t sound like my cup of Darjeeling at first but I have to say, I loved it.
A Comedy Of Operas
August 2 – 27