Theatre review - Jerry Springer The Opera, The Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 15:42 14 August 2019
Jerry Springer The Opera sparked controversy when it first came to Manchester over a decade ago.
A character in this revival of the shock opera wears one of those T-shirts warning: Parental Advisory - Explicit Content!
If ever there was a good example of locking the stable door long after the horse has bolted . . .
It's fair to guess though that most of the audience here come well prepared for the profanity-laden satire of the controversial American talk show host - even those too young to remember his TV heyday, or even the religious picketing that went on outside Manchester Opera House when the show first appeared in these parts back in 2006.
No such protests this time round. Instead there's an intensely-enjoyable, if rather relentless assault on the senses - and your level of open-mindedness - in a production that ploughs deep and occasionally meaningful furrows through the moral low ground.
If comedian Stewart Lee and composer/lyricist Richard Thomas intended Jerry Springer: The Opera to be a less-than-coded warning of the excesses of 'reality television' then the recent tragedies surrounding the genre suggest lessons are yet to be learned.
Admittedly their shows goes off piste somewhat when it imagines a final studio confrontation between Satan and Jesus that also recruits Adam, Eve and God to the arguments - even if the latter seems perpetually distracted by all the incoming messages on his mobile! Hence the test of your own personal credo.
It works perfectly in the confines of this Manchester venue, performed by a cast of two dozen or so in a traverse-style stage space not much bigger than a boxing ring. You should even spot several local faces amongst them.
Director and co-producer James Baker marshalls them all with precision and is rewarded with a distinguished ensemble performance, featuring several outstanding voices, and all scrupulously recruited from around the region.
Northern Ricochet Productions has been created by Baker, musical director Tom Chester and theatre impresario Bill Elms expressly to develop local talent. Productions as sound as this do the North's reputation a powerhouse of good.
It continues here until August 31 - but remember the T-shirt warning!