Alison! Priests, bad boys and rock opera with an edge at the Spread Eagle theatre


By - Thursday 1st May, 2014

Jeet Sandhu reports on an unusual discovery in a local Croydon pub


The ‘maternal tough-love priest’ ministers to Alison! at the Spread Eagle theatre.
Photo author’s own.

I could not believe my ears! Opera in Croydon – rock opera in Croydon! I was intrigued! The venue was the Spread Eagle pub in Katharine Street. OK, I thought – rock opera in a pub. I’ll not be sceptical – I’ll just go along open-minded.

Despite having had lived in Croydon all my life, I have always overlooked the Spread Eagle and I was surprised to learn that it has space for an upstairs theatre. I was also surprised to discover how great the décor and the pub are, and how similar it is to the pub eateries I enjoy in town.

There were times in the evening when I definitely felt operatic emotions

We went upstairs to a second bar encapsulated within a theatre setting. The show started with a warm-up by guitarist Dan Persad, co-writer of the evening’s main entertainment along with Leo Butler. This was a clever and upbeat duo of songs with the occasional joke thrown in.

I’d describe the show itself as more rock and less opera, although there were parts where I felt what I’d definitely describe as ‘operatic’ emotions. The show itself is about a young girl called Alison (played by Lucy Edge) who gets involved with the wrong type of guy – something I think most females can relate to. Alison is then tortured by her emotions which take her on a journey of self-destruction.

The performance has depth and a weirdly unnerving edge

At the core of the rock opera’s story is the narrator, played by actor Rhydian Persad, who takes on various roles from the almost-maternal tough love priest to the corrupting devil. This presence gives the performance depth and also a weirdly unnerving edge.

The band which played almost entirely through the performance was excellent. Although I’m no X Factor judge, I thought the vocals were pretty great. There were some great lyrics too, such as “Breathe right through me” and “I’d jump off a building” – which only heightened the power of the plot and the acting style. The rock music itself I felt took inspiration from several different decades. A song such as ‘Ballad Of The Bailiffs’ seems to take a soulful ’50s stance whilst ‘Keeping It Together’ feels more contemporary.

Needless to say, I found the performance highly enjoyable, Alison is a great show to go see and I think that most people would be able to find something to relate to in the story line. For me the whole evening was rather a journey of discovery, as it was for Alison – luckily in my case a much more enjoyable one.

The Croydon Citizen

The Croydon Citizen

The Croydon Citizen is a non-profit community news magazine for London's most populous borough.

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