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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

Batter up: Jam @Finborough

No doubt there are days when teachers just wish they had a baseball bat to put a little bit of distance between themselves and their students.

In Jam by Matt Parvin, teacher Bella Soroush is lucky enough to do just that. It's currently playing at the Finborough Theatre.

The premise in this two-hander is that ex-pupil Kane ruined Bella Soroush's life. Something happened and so she moved schools, moved towns and got on with her life. But now Kane has tracked her down and claims they have unfinished business.

With all this potential for malevolence, you never get a sense of any real peril facing either character.  An uneasy soundtrack underscores the proceedings, but as the piece wears on it's hard to understand where the drama is.

One of Kane's past atrocities amounted to bringing a smelly cheese board to school. And Bella doesn't like smelly cheese. At this point you could be forgiven for thinking Bella is a touch neurotic.

There isn't much time to explore why British school standards lag behind many other developed countries. Nor does it equip the nation for the skills it needs given its heavy reliance on immigrants (at least for now). Perhaps the answer lies in the pointless discussions that take place here.

But even if the story doesn't add up to much Jasmine Hyde as Bella and Harry Melling as Kane are terrific to watch.

Melling's Kane is a bit of a man-child. Alternating between stand over man and schoolboy, you get the sense he realises the best years of his life (being at school causing trouble) are behind him.

Hyde is a revelation as she shifts from being a victim to being yet another teacher with dubious motives for entering the profession.

Directed by Tommo Fowler, Jam is at Finborough Theatre until 17 June.


Photos by Matthew Foster

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