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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15; review: opera Pleasure.

Byline: Liverpool Playhouse By DAWN COLLINSON ECHO reporter @dawncollinson

F traditional opera is prone to be laden with expiring leads and desperate doomed love then perhaps Pleasure isn't so radically extraordinary after all.

IThis new work from Liverpudlian composer Mark Simpson certainly ticks those boxes. But even before the 75-minute piece begins, the black glitter backdrop, larger than life-sized illuminated lettering and a couple of loos hint that this is unlike any opera most in the Playhouse audience have ever seen before.

Pleasure had its world premiere just a week ago, commissioned in partnership by Opera North, Aldeburgh Music and The Royal Opera who share a passion to nurture new opera makers.

Former King David student Mark has collaborated with librettist Melanie Challenger, with music from ensemble Psappha, positioned on an open mezzanine of the single nightclub set.

The action centres around the interwoven lives of four characters, whose paths cross in the toilets of a gay bar, inspired by Eberle Street's GBar.

The nation's favourite soprano Lesley Garrett is Val, the dowdy toilet attendant whose regrettably diminished world is given meaning by the parade of young men who pass through her domain, seeking her advice as a mother figure confidante.

One of them is Matthew (Nick Pritchard), the hopeful hedonist on a constant search for love or whatever passes for its nearest ally on a dark dancefloor.

It's there he meets Nathan (Timothy Nelson) and falls for the tormented soul obsessed with powerful tales of his absent father. But Nathan has a blade in his pocket, a packet of pills and a bottle of spirits, and when those three combine tragedy is never far away.

Occasional glimmers of light amongst an otherwise relentlessly anguished shade come in the garish form of drag queen Anna Fewmore (Steven Page), raddled by passing years and boxed wine, neither of which have been unduly kind. He veers from kiss-blowing cheekiness, to a grotesque embittered figure - "an old b**ch" - smeared in ketchup.

He and Val have aged together while the young men have come and moved on.

As the story unfolds and we discover that a casual hook-up isn't Nathan's real reason for being in the club, so the operatic melodrama builds to an emotional climax with Garrett at its wrenched heart.

In the end it's the ordinariness of the story, its realness, which sets it apart from the expected. But then Liverpool audiences do like to be surprised. Shouts of 'bravo' and an enthusiastic ovation for the artists and Pleasure's creators showed that.

Lesley Garrett as Val in Mark Simpson's opera Pleasure

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 6, 2016
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