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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

Kitchen sink dramas: Knife Edge @BigHouseTheatre

Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips! Chicken! Chicken and chips!

Early on in Knife Edge, the cast bursts into chanting this. Soon there is a driving percussion backing it and it sounds like it is not just a call to eat but a way of life. And so unfolds a tale written by David Watson and directed by Maggie Norris about a girl with big dreams and more than a few issues.

The piece is produced by The Big House. It is a charity that helps young people in care to fulfill their potential. Almost half of all prisoners under 21 have been in care and the charity uses drama, mentoring and support to tackle breaking this cycle.

Over 12 weeks they developed the piece and the cast - most have never acted before - worked to devise the production.

The story is set in east London. A “Girl With No Name” (Tezlym Senior Sakutu) has been in care since her mother died when she was eight. A chance encounter with her step-siblings and a crazy chef named Ralph (but pronounced “Ray-fe”) may turn her life around. But anger and a bit of a dodgy past may conspire to be her downfall.

There are some great performances by the young cast, including Taurean Steele as Ralph. His attempts to explain he is running an Hawaiian restaurant (in Dalston no less) is hilarious.

It is hard not to like a show with big dreams and big ambitions even if things do not always hang together. Maybe more music would help.

It looks great too. It is a promenade production and you move through different parts of the restaurant. There are some clever uses of lighting and space here as well.

Part of the ticket is also a post-show feast where the audience and cast can come also together and discuss the issues of the piece. And it isn't just chicken and chips. After all, that's Nandos...

Knife Edge plays at the Pond Dalston through to 12 June. You can find out more about The Big House and its activities at its website.


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