Conor Mitchell and the Belfast Ensemble decided that the whole sordid saga deserved the operatic treatment. ‘Abomination: A DUP Opera’ premiered at the Outburst Arts Festival. Last night was its debut on the national stage of the Abbey Theatre. Set against an audiovisual backdrop of various headlines about the controversy, and historical detail about the DUP’s hatred of gay people, the opera is based on the original Stephen Nolan interview. Rebecca Caine plays Iris Robinson, and is in fine operatic voice (‘He’s a POOF’ being a hilarious highlight) while Tony Flynn plays Stephen Nolan. Flynn doesn’t sing – he asks the questions as spoken words giving Caine (and her DUP party) the chance to reply in deranged, operatic splendour.
It’s a clever concept and it is very easy to follow the narrative. It’s not often you see an opera based on such recent, historical events. I remember each of the specific utterances of Iris when she made them – along with other related scandals at the time. It is powerful in its impact. To see the septic bigotry of the DUP Party on full display (solely on the subject of homosexuality – there is no mention in this piece of the party’s attitude to the Papists in the North, or the Free State) is quite shocking. And depressing. For such avowed Christians, these people seem to be lacking in any human, kindness or warmth. This goes beyond their failure as politicians to represent the electorate. It speaks to the failure of their religion to see beyond their own bigoted, little trench.
It’s a marvellous piece of theatre. Not being an opera expert I cannot claim to know about the quality of the music – except for the fact that I enjoyed it. Rebecca Caine gives an impressive performance, along with her DUP party members. Reece Hudson plays Angel – a representation of Kirk McCamblay. Thankfully this character is not played for laughs as he so easily could have been. In real life he became part of a political controversy for which he had no responsibility.
An entertaining and engaging evening of opera and theatre ‘Abomination: A DUP Opera’ runs for the next ten days in the Abbey Theatre.