9th March 2022

Déjà review: ALICIA – an immersive rock opera

Jessica Hamilton deja reviews ALICIA – An Immersive Rock Opera at Manchester Cathedral
Déjà review: ALICIA – an immersive rock opera
Photo: Beyond Theatre.

Written by Jessica Hamilton.

On a peculiar girls’ night out, which started in The Moon Under Water (Wetherspoons), I found myself in Manchester Cathedral, watching a rock opera about a Witch named Alicia. I wasn’t sure if it was the three blue lagoons that I drank shortly beforehand, but I hadn’t a clue what was going on. It was only with the help of the programme that I discovered the simple premise which was Love and Hate. It wasn’t long into the performance that I realised I leaned towards the latter.

The ambivalent theme ran throughout the show, however, I did not feel as though any character even remotely embodied the passion it takes to both love and hate. The two lovers appeared less star-crossed and more forced together at a Year Six school disco.

I admit, I may have set my expectations too high. After rewatching American Horror Story: Coven twice during Lockdown, I thought anything involving Witches would be interesting. Yet, as the show progressed, so did my disappointment.

The soundtrack appeared promising, beginning with a captivating cover of Donavan’s ‘Season of the Witch’. I was initially excited and thought that more powerful renditions were to come. However, what actually followed was a confusing compilation of songs which failed to enhance the plot, leaving the audience feeling as though they may have stepped into a karaoke bar in the 1970s.

I can’t deny any of the singers’ abilities, and the actors were clearly professionally trained. Yet, there was a lack of substance to their performances. The emphasis on the operatic voices meant that the depth and soul of the original music was missing, and I hated having to listen to the butchering of three Nina Simone songs.

The setting of the beautiful Manchester Cathedral could have made for a brilliant performance. The lighting and special effects were ostensibly impressive, creating an eerie and exhilarating atmosphere. Yet, in relation to the story, I found these quite predictable; the red flashing lights were too often used to indicate the anger of the characters. I found the choice less profound and more epilepsy-inducing.

Instead of appreciating the performance, I found myself distracted by the questionable costume and props included. During the recital of one of my favourite Fleetwood Mac songs, I was preoccupied on the combination of the actor’s chosen decision of skinny jeans and flip-flops, wondering if this was a popular fashion choice in the 1600s.

If it’s any consolation, ALICIA did initiate a lot of (confused) conversation in the group I was with.

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