☆☆☆☆ – The perfect introduction for an opera novice and an exciting and challenging alternative for die hard opera goers.
Millennial video culture seems to leave no prisoners. Even opera gets the ‘meme’ treatment in Drive-by Shooting by Dumbworld, currently showing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This animated street opera is an utterly captivating work, and at only £3 a ticket, an exciting step towards updating the art form and removing from it the bourgeois veil that stops young people engaging with it.
An old woman plots revenge against her cheating husband with the aid of her friend, threatening to ‘SHOOT THE FECKER IN THE PECKER’. It’s a comedic and poignant story that lightly touches on socio-political issues. The narrative is unpretentious, it doesn’t try hard to ‘appeal to the kids’ with lazy stereotypes and slang and instead focuses on interesting characters and an unusual story with century old themes of betrayal and revenge.
The setting is urban and exciting. The audience stands on a terrace in Summerhall, surrounded by office buildings, the bustle of the bar below faintly audible through headphones. Running at 15 minutes, its closer to a YouTube video than a 3-Act opera, but even in this easily-digestible chunk, Dumbworld achieves everything they set out to do. In an animation style reminiscent of Banksy, the actors are reduced down to block colours and clear shapes, their costumes detailed archetypes of two sweet octogenarians. The animation has a feeling of a street mural coming to life.
Brian Irvine, the composer, perfectly balances the dark tension of the act the women are about to commit with a light, whimsical narrative. The actors portraying the old women, Doreen Curran and Sylvia O’Brien are skilled story tellers and easily convey the sense of the narrative with both their singing and physicality.
The most ingenious aspect of the piece is the use of text. The libretto swims around the characters like drunk subtitles; they flash and burst, pop and swish along to the music. They not only allow the audience to actually understand what the characters are saying but also add to whatever emotion the music seeks to convey. They add clarity as well as tension to the performances, not to mention humour. The device follows the blueprint of an internet joke, a clear humorous picture and accompanying text. It is the perfect introduction for an opera novice and an exciting and challenging alternative for die hard opera goers.
Conceived and created by Brian Irvine and John McIlduff.
Featuring Doreen Curran, Sylvia O’Brien and the RTE Concert Orchestra.
3-16 August / Summerhall ‘The Terrace’
21:30, 21:45, 22:00, 22:15, 22:30, 22:45, 23:00, 23:15, 23:30
Review by Camilla Anvar.