Jerry Springer the Opera

CAROLINE CULOT Theatre Royal, Norwich


Theatre Royal, Norwich

When it comes to theatre, bad publicity often sells a show almost as well as good - so you might have expected the Theatre Royal to have been absolutely packed to the rafters last night.

It wasn't, although the show went down a storm with the crowd who cheered vociferously at the end, even chanting Jerry, Jerry.

Was it the most blasphemous, offensive piece of theatre ever to be seen?

Not by a long shot.

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Would you feel comfortable taking your gran? Only if she didn't have her hearing aid. This show, a pun on the whole idea of a morality play, is no picnic - more like a carnivorous feast.

The language from start to finish is appalling, unrelenting and the question is, is it really necessary?

The first half takes us through the Springer show format, with an ensemble of gruesome guests, including Montel (Wills Morgan) who wants to be his girlfriend's baby and strips off to reveal to the audience that he is wearing just a big nappy. Then there is Chucky, who, it is revealed, is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He then, along with other fully gowned up members, does a tap dance.

The second half is certainly the most controversial, when Jerry finds himself hosting a chat show between Jesus and Satan as the ultimate contest between good and evil.

The show, mixing the high art form of opera with the sleaze of the chat show, does in its twisted, banal way, criticise the likes of Jerry Springer and all those people who watch it. It cleverly used us as the real audience pointing the moral finger at us as well as Springer.

So it's a morality play with us at its core - which is subtle and clever.

Yes, it's offensive, yes it makes you think a little bit and yes, it's a piece of theatre using the medium of the stage for more than just sheer entertainment.

It's also very well executed by a group of extremely talented performers and singers. But it's not really enjoyable because it's not meant to be - you don't get that cathartic experience from it because you're not meant to. And would I be bothered to go and see it again or recommend it to a friend? I'd have to say no.

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