Writer & Performer: Delea Shand
Nominated for the Best Comedy Show and Best Newcomer at the Manchester Fringe in 2019, Madame Chandelier’s Rough Guide to the Opera makes a return visit to The Kings Arms in Salford. If you don’t know your Mozart from a flow chart, Verdi from the hurdy-gurdy or Bizet from a bidet this rough guide is designed to educate, entertain and inform while hitting all the high notes.
Canadian Delea Shand (if that is her real name) is a trained classical singer and immigrant to Britain. With a career on hold to have children (her affectionately titled baby Valkyries) her alter ego, Madame Chandelier, is on hand to don accordion, silly wigs and props and deliver an hour’s show as an introduction to her art form. This is an unashamedly silly show. Madame Chandelier throws herself headlong into the performance and expects her audience to do the same. With a willing audience, the show works. Luckily, the Kings Arms crowd were happy to go along for the ride. However, with more reserved and shy audience members, Madame Chandelier may crash to the floor like the infamous Only Fools and Horses scene.
The ice is broken by the introduction of a drinking game whereby every time she hits a high note the audience member must drink a shot of fizz being passed around. Chandelier wants her show to be a warm, collective experience and for the most part she succeeds. Part life story and part interesting opera factoids the show is not one thing or the other. The show succeeds much more when we learn more about the ‘high’ art form. She plays a game of ‘Opera or Not’ where we have to guess whether pieces of music like The Wedding March derive from opera or not – it does, by the way. She touches on the origins and history of opera and we learn how plotlines from an obscure Czech opera directly correlate to a Disney creation set under the sea. A little like QI – all interesting facts told in an entertaining way.
Part of the show’s charm is its ramshackle style. Chandelier bounds onto stage accidentally knocking over her camera tripod. Her roughly taped up gold curtain half falls down halfway through the performance. She constantly refers to her notes taped to the back of a suitcase to keep her on track. Jokes are searched for and audience ad-libs disappear down rabbit holes. Any slightly timid audience member may watch on edge in fear that they might be the next (un)willing ‘volunteer’. As killjoy as this may sound, it is an important contract a performer must have with their audience.
Loosely structured into five acts with the obligatory encore (a group singalong of Nessun Dorma), Chandelier’s show isn’t structured enough to keep it satisfactory. Its rambling nature means that some great content is lost between the flotsam and jetsam. Part life story and part guide to opera it is perhaps a show too divided.
Runs at The Kings Arms until 19 January 2020