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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Everything: Taboo

A smart, slick new production of Boy George's musical Taboo has been playing in Brixton for the past month. What makes this production worth a look is the insanely talented people on stage. Some are even making their professional debut here and in the small yet perfectly formed space of the Brixton Club House (on the corner of Brixton Road and Coldharbour Lane... above the KFC), it makes for one hell of a show.

The story focuses on the club scene in the early 1980s and the rise of the New Romantic movement. It is a journey (of sorts) into fashion, big hair, bitchy  banter and decadent antics. At the centre of this was Boy George and living artist performer Leigh Bowery... The latter role is played by newcomer Sam Buttery who manages to make a larger than life figure rather human and delicate, even when singing a song about Bowery's voracious sexual appetite. Buttery was in the recent BBC chair-swining series The Voice and you get the impression from his performance that he will be going on to bigger and better things... The rest of the cast are great too but Katie Kerr as Big Sue (or Benefits Supervisor as she was immortalised in the portrait by Lucian Freud) manages to get through the piece belting out a series of ballads with such emotion that it almost looks easy...

Taboo as a piece probably is a bit too conventional a musical to become a cult hit. There are too many cliches written around the ballads and pop tunes and the first half is way too long. The story is essentially this... Boy (not George) leaves rough home to make it in London. Boy hooks up with an old school friend at a squat and meets Boy George. Boy (and Boy George) get confused. Cue shouting and awkward love triangle. Meanwhile on the other side of the town in a toilet cubicle there is Leigh... And meanwhile at another club night there Marilyn who also wants to be famous. And meanwhile back at rough home mother keeps calling on a phone. And so on and so on...

While the music is great, characters also tend to be famous rather than sympathetic. Boy George becomes a star as quickly a costume change and there isn't much insight to what drove these mad creative-types and clubbers in the 1980s, their music and their downfall. In between the ballads and pop tunes there are the drugs but by then the story all becomes a bit of a blur. It is a shame that a period of change and the rise of the new romantic pop culture gets reduced to a few lines and quips. It is also a period chronicling the rise to fame in a time before wall-to-wall television shows made anyone of dubious talent a star. Then again it also was the period when Marilyn released Calling Your Name so it was an omen for what was the horror to come...

Still maybe it does not matter. It is a hell of a ride anyway with some energetic dancing, audience participation and rather amusing floor show banter. Go for the music and the performances.

Taboo runs until December at the Brixton Club House. Look out for good discounts and meal deals. There are also matinee performances which is a chance to head to the markets for lunch beforehand... Or you could just get some finger licking chicken in bucket...

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