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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Tesco, The Opera

Notebox Productions

Genre: Cabaret, Live Music

Venue: C Royale


Low Down

Life in a supermarket is just like the plot of an opera – full of unexpected items in odd places and lots of moaning and wailing.


Supermarkets.  Great places to watch people.  All walks of life can be found in their crowded aisles, fretting over the fettucine or obsessing over the size of the aubergines.  And that’s just the staff.  Throw customers into the mix and you’ve got the perfect setting for…… opera.

Well, that’s what Steve Clarke thinks, at any rate.  He claims to have discovered the sequel to Puccini’s Tosca, tucked away in the back of a sock drawer somewhere, forgotten and only half completed by the now long dead composer.  And he could be right, for Tesco, The Opera has all the hallmarks of the great Italian’s style.  Soaring arias, a hero, a heroine, the obligatory villain and the comic role inserted to defuse the melodramatic tension that has normally built to a crescendo somewhere in Act III.  Oh, and plenty of that wobbly singing where there’s a lot of vibrato, awkward intervals for the singer to master and much wringing of hands, what the buffs call recitative.

Clarke’s written some very droll, dry lyrics around the mix of people you see in any supermarket. For example, he gently parodies the types of shopper; the elderly, with time on their hands and completely oblivious of anyone else; the free spirit, whirling around the aisles, picking goods at random from the shelves; the OCD shopper, with a list and an optimised route plan.  The staff get similar treatment, with the cleaner cast in the comic role and the check-out supervisor as the heroine.

It’s all quite clever stuff, nicely written, a gentle examination of middle-class habits and their shopping foibles.  And, judging by the looks and reaction of the audience, many of them fall into and recognise the traits that Clarke is singing about.

It’s one man, his piano, some songs and a few groan-worthy jokes.  A pleasant forty-five minutes.  I’d have urged you to “check it out” and warned you that there is “no cashback” but those two particularly groany gags have already been used the show’s PR material made available to us hard-pressed hacks.  Ah well, every little helps, as they say.