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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

Cattle class: Dubailand @Finborough

There is a line in the play Dubailand about all the astronauts around the world looking down and seeing people in Dubai. The implication is they will see these masters of the universe. Labourers earning loads of money. Expats in offices making a bundle. But they will see tiny people of insignificance. That's the point of the play. Whether you're a labourer or marketer, you're all the same. You're second or third or fourth-class citizens. And don't forget it.

The play by Carmen Nasr is running at The Finborough Theatre on Sundays Mondays and Tuesdays. It was first performed there as a staged reading in 2015.

There are many characters in the piece, and it builds to make its nuanced observations. There is the eager Brit marketer Jamie (Nicholas Banks) who hits on the idea to film construction of one of their towers. To reassure buyers who bought off the plan the project is on track. And there is the labourer Amar (Adi Chugh). He finds that the dreams of riches don't quite match the harsh living conditions and low pay for the dangerous work.

There's also various service workers - taxi drivers, waiters, whatevers - all played by Varun Sharma. Afterall in Dubai you're interchangeable.

Extra enjoyment in this piece comes from having recently visited Dubai. This city in the desert had left its impression. Sure it is an oasis of free enterprise and no income taxes. There isn't much to do there other than shop. And with all the people walking around with brooms and mops the bathrooms and public spaces are spotless.

But visiting it feels like its urban planning on hormones rather than steroids. It grows in fits and starts. Roads veer off to fake beaches. There are relentless rows of apartments that at night appear to be all dark as if nobody is living there. Signs are everywhere telling you what you can and can't do. For a city with no taxes prices seem high.

This play calls it what it is. A dystopia.

Directed by Georgie Staight, Dubailand is at The Finborough Theatre until 21 February.  It's run may be sold out but check the website for the additional matinee on 20 February and for returns.


Photo credit: Production photos by Tim Hall

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