So I feel like I have to say something about “Jerry Springer- The Opera” which aired on BBC2 tonight despite more than 20,000 calls and letters of protest from Christian Groups to have it banned.
First of all, who is mobilizing 20,000 Christians to protest against a show that presumably they haven’t seen? (Or have they all been to the West End over the last 3 years while it’s been playing?) I’m all for public protest but what alarms me is the pre-emptive outrage that is obviously being orchestrated by someone. Perhaps it’s all the research I’ve been doing into the Christian Right in America, but it makes me edgy when I see Christian Lobby Groups pressurizing National Institutions.
I’m personally delighted that the BBC didn’t cave in (as it did with the Last Temptation of Christ back in 1991). We are adults and we do have the freedom to turn off our sets and not watch what we deem unsuitable. The show is a West End hit and many people wouldn’t be able to see it otherwise. It’s also fantastically provocative – and a little provocation never hurt anyone. No true Christian is going to be effected by the Grand Guignol comedy of Jerry Springer – the Opera.
In fact the show was surprisingly moralistic in a weird (and very entertaining) way. In his death throes, Jerry Springer – played fantastically by David Soul (who incidentally is a Christian) – , is dispatched to Hell to resolve the eon-long dispute between Satan and God – but only because his soul has been damned by the exploitative nature of his car-crash TV show. At the end of this infernal re-run he realises that all this theological squabbling is beside the point and that “energy is pure delight/ there’s no such thing as wrong or right”. What’s important. he and the Opera concludes, is to look after one another. A fairly innocuous conclusion, by any religions’ lights.
It’s also a fabulously performed show. The intricate, operatic singing is flawless, the choreography is hilarious and it well deserves it’s 6 Olivier Awards. David Bedella is outlandishly good as Warm-Up Guy/Satan. Generally, it’s exactly the sort of salty, corrosive, irritating, beautiful stuff I love. Not everyone will like it. There we moments where I tired of it but it’s high quality and it makes me proud that the National Theatre picked it up from its fringe beginnings. And it makes me proud that the BBC aired it tonight.
Heaven knows what’ll happen when it hits Broadway….