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Jerry Springer - the Opera

Published Monday 16 February 2004 at 13:30 by George Hall

It has taken a long time, from its origins at Battersea Arts Centre via the Edinburgh Fringe, but composer/lyricist Richard Thomas and his collaborator Stewart Lee finally witness the official world premiere of their much touted show at the National Theatre.

Lee himself directs a zingy staging that uses operatic devices to parody, satirise and celebrate the genre of confessional trash television and its high priest, whom Michael Brandon impersonates with a blend of semi-fake charm and good natured non-judgementalism.

The high-octane production never lets up in the first half, in which Springer’s studio audience howls and bays at a succession of lowlifes whose sexual and emotional obsessions are splurged out for all to revel in and despise. As one schlocky narrative succeeds another, a climax of brilliance is reached with the arrival of a troupe of all-singing, all-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen, who bring the first half to a riotous close.

It is clearly predestined for cult status but if one is being picky it is hard not to feel that the score is thin, although the parodies of Bach and Handel are cleverly positioned. Or that the plot, in which Springer’s fired warm-up man (David Bedella) shoots him in revenge and then turns out to be the Devil, precipitating an Act II confrontation involving Satan, Jesus, God plus Adam and Eve, is laboured. The show has grown beyond its natural limits. But it is great fun along the way and presented with relentless chutzpah.

This show was reviewed prior to the website launch. A new review may be pending.

Production information

Lyttelton, London,

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014