Wed 10th May 2017
The Hacker's Opera is a rhyming couplets satire on the News of the World hacking scandal and subsequent trial of Rebekah Brooks, with live music composed and played by Sharon Wright. This show certainly doesn't feel finished yet, but the kernel is there for a strong piece of theatre and that's what Spark's Factory is all about; supporting new theatre makers to try out risky and daring ideas.
I'm a sucker for a rhyming couplet and the general premise of the show worked, although in the end I felt that the defence provided genuine arguments for why Rebekah and the News of the World behaved the way that they did, where as the prosecution witnesses were all satirical. I voted guilty, but that was based more on the information I already knew about the case rather than what had just been presented to me. I'd like to have seen the victims give more nuanced emotional responses to how it felt to have their privacy invaded and the very real damage that the newspapers had caused.
It was also strange that one of the victims looked so much like Rebekah Brooks. I don't think for a second that plays should always be cast with exact like for likes and if it's a clear choice then it's great to mix things up, but I found this arrangement tricky, because when the cast first walked onto the stage my immediate thought was that's amazing casting, only to discover that the actress who looked like Rebekah Brooks (Iphigenia Giannopolous) was playing the victim Selina Shallow. I appreciate that Iphigenia's is from Greece and therefore her accent might have been a sticking point and also I get that no one on the stage was called Rebekah Brooks - instead it was the trial of Rebekah Wade, but I found it difficult to get past how much Iphigenia looked like Rebekah. Personally I'd have been fine with Rebekah Wade being Greek.
Eden Avital Alexander gave a strong performance as the Devil, the rapping was fun from Matt Swan and both the Prosecutor and Defence felt in control, but there was an overall sense that everyone could have done with relaxing and enjoying themselves a bit more. Perhaps a longer vocal warm up would have helped as nerves were affecting people's voices. With rhyming couplet theatre it needs to be as big and as brash as panto. The performers want to connect with the audience and not be at all embarrassed. A dropped line and a duff note here and there are easily forgiven if the performers are being warm and confident, with a slight tongue in cheek relationship to the audience. Going deeper into the grotesque would have also be fun to see.
This has the makings of a hilarious satirical show, one I could see forming a great cabaret/festival act for a political producer like Shangri-la at Glastonbury Festival, as well as touring as a full theatre piece.