It’s not all over until the man in the hoodie sings, because this opera from WNO is more Trainspotting than The Railway Children, an unrelenting take on what it means to be growing up in 21st century Britain.
Sweetness and Badness has been specially written for audiences aged 14 – 17, but will be performed by five singers and six musicians from WNO’s Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of Yvonne Murphy.
At the heart of Sweetness and Badness is a love story, but along the way darker undercurrents swirl and mesh: a young woman physically abused by her lover; a school drop-out traumatised by the actions of his brutal father and a nerdy wannabee so anxious for peer group approval he’s willing to risk everything.
“Let’s be honest, opera is the last form you would expect to be dealing with this kind of subject matter,” says Rhian Hutchings, WNO Max Director.
“But music does have this extraordinary emotional impact and that can affect everyone – regardless of age.
“Here, five characters go on an intense psychological and emotional journey and the music means you get straight to the heart of the matter.”
Sweetness and Badness has been written by Michael Wicherek, writer-in-residence for Box Clever Theatre, a London-based company specialising in creating new writing for young audiences and the music has been composed by Will Todd.
The singers are all from WNO’s renowned Chorus and they are Alun Rhys Jenkins, Claire Hampton, Julian Boyce, Samantha Hay and Jasey Hall.
“I’ve told the singers: don’t pretend to be 16, or worry about wearing the hoodie or the baggy trousers,” explains Michael. “This really is an art form which speaks to you emotionally, forget the clichés.
“Drama – whether it’s opera or theatre – can offer so many opportunities to reflect on where we stand in the world. For someone in their teens, that’s really important, because it’s a time of such huge change and conflict.
“It’s all about finding out where you can fit in and the characters in Sweetness and Badness have to answer that question too.”
Tickets are just £2.50 for the performance on March 24 at 1.30pm. Call the Crescent’s box office on 0121 643 5858 for tickets and further details.