Most operas at the Fringe facilitate escape: making you feel and weep for strange, even fictional lands, transporting you to exotic locales and upper-class dramas. Not Tesco: The Opera. All Steve Clark needs to vividly lay out the aisles of Tesco before you is a piano and his voice. Finally, someone understands the dramas that unfold between the shameful frozen food section and the precarious reduced area. Someone is here to tell our story. This is the story of Tesco.
You don’t have any characters to get to know — you are already familiar with the prototypes he lays out before you from the elderly who have all the time in the world to the young lady flooding the checkout with the blue and white of Tesco Basics.
He provides additional insight, detailing each shopper’s stereotypical dessert option and making us all feel just a little bit of compassion for our fellow shoppers. Their budgets and post codes are just numbers, but they are humanised by their selection of after-dinner treat acutely diagnosed by Clark.
Not unlike shopping itself, the show doesn’t come without its stressful periods and existential crisis. The room is small and on a crowded night you’ll find yourself getting hot, and the considerable details and concentrated study about the social dynamics of Tesco could prove too much for you to bear. If, for example, your phone buzzes and you lose the moment, you may be shocked to find a sense of powerful vindication rising up in your chest with Clark’s condemnation of self-checkout, or a nervous shaking of your hand as he describes the high-stakes rush to the reduced section. This sudden realization of your emotional response to a food shop could make you question if your life has meaning.
This show won’t resolve your qualms, but it does convert them into opera form with helpful explanations about the various types of melody.
The humour is witty and original, with Clark’s quirky and astute observations revealing novel insight about our everyday life. He expertly negotiates the painful reflections on misplaced crisps with the upbeat celebrations of the din of the store in the morning. Drama, comedy, tragedy: this opera has it all without leaving the automatic doors of Tesco.
Tesco: The Opera
theSpace at The Royal Society of Edinburgh