JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA
BAC (Battersea Arts Centre), London SW11
Opened 5 February, 2002

**** A thoroughly bizarre project in every respect

It sounds implausible, but Richard Thomas has written precisely that: an operatic version of an edition of The Jerry Springer Show.

Currently staged as part of BAC's "ladder of development" programme, in an almost but not quite finished form, Thomas's work boggles the mind. He has always tried to combine his classical music expertise with the sickest material available, and has succeeded with this bizarre offering. Along with comedian Stewart Lee as director and co-librettist, he has scored a mock edition of the infamous trailer-trash TV show, featuring the usual parade of misfits ranging from diaper fetishists to a transsexual ("Chick with a dick!" sing the studio-audience chorus).

Thomas's score ranges from modernist dissonance to gospel jubilee, but the achievement is to create a two-act work (let's just describe the second act as "Jerry in hell") which is entirely sung through, except for the character of Jerry Springer himself, played by Rick Bland with just the right amount of disingenuousness. Ian Shaw shines as the sinister warm-up man, and Thomas's frequent collaborator Lora Lixenberg once again provides her remarkable voice. As someone who cannot stand the TV show itself, I found it uncomfortable viewing, but a culture-clash like this is so far beyond grotesque as to be delicious.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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