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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

You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice. It also has one hell of an evocative title.

The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol, which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan

However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing people to flee the reverse way. Europe is no longer inhabitable except for the extremely rich. And so we’re introduced to four characters. They have no names, only descriptions. Three characters pay the fourth to travel in a shipping container to an unknown destination. But as things go wrong, things take a darker and abstract tone.

The ensemble balances the darkness of the subject matter and the banality arising from seemingly lighter-hearted moments. As The Burly One (and smuggler), Felix Garcia Guyer addresses the audience with facts about shipping containers and Italian recipes. The staging is kept simple with a red curtain evoking the red container ship they are within. 

The overall impact is less realistic than Tess Berry Hart’s excellent CARGO at the Arcola in 2016. This piece explored similar themes about illegal immigration from a container ship. However, I suspect the point is more about getting the audience to try to understand the informal immigration trade. It isn’t a journey you can take with a wad of cash, a waterproof suitcase and a few folded shirts and expect to survive even if one of the characters tries to do that. 

There may not be a solution by the end (or a straightforward conclusion), but who can honestly believe anyone has one? Directed by Daniel Emery, Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea is at Park Theatre until 30 September. 


Production photos by Charles Flint

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