Lockdown reviews: Abomination – a DUP opera

Conor Mitchell’s provocative and high camp opera Abomination: a DUP Opera made its streaming debut on the new Queen’s Film Theatre online player last night, in a recording filmed at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

It is set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)’s views on homosexuality, and Iris Robinson’s comments on a radio show in 2008. Two young men had been attacked, beaten, and left for dead; Robinson condemned this, but insisted that the gay lifestyle was an abomination.

Screencap from Abomination a DUP Opera

A true opera with arias, a talented chorus and even a dance sequence choreographed and performed by Richard Chappell, Abomination uses a backdrop of footage and quotes from the NI parliament to underlie the lyrics we hear.

Rebecca Caine is exceptional as Robinson, in a performance not only beautifully sung, but acted in a way to give the measure of the woman as her interview progresses. By the end she is literally grasping for words to support her argument, against a backdrop of violence decimating an already fragile political and religious landscape.

Screencap from Abomination a DUP Opera

The DUP’s unbending view on God, Christian life, and “love the sinner, hate the sin” is given sharp focus but also cleverly mocked while making a clear point against their ideology. When Robinson asserts “I don’t hate anyone. I live by the word of God. I hate what they do”, her hypocrisy and naivete is brought into sharp relief.

A question from radio host Stephen Nolan (Toby Flynn) which invites her to explain her attitudes towards homosexuality leads to a rant from her aide and chorus about “poofs”, “perverts” and “deviants”. This is both blackly comic and shocking.

Screencap from Abomination a DUP Opera

Filmed by Nicky Larkin, this is a slickly professional production which looks beautiful in its washes of blue and key spotlights. The supporting singers – Dawn Burns (mezzo), Matthew Cavan (baritone), Christopher Cull (baritone) and John Porter (tenor) – keep the story moving, while a 13-piece orchestra and 4-piece chorus give this seventy minute opera scope and depth.

In the current climate, Abomination feels relevant and appropriate, especially with the final, silent, quotation from the DUP’s John Carson, about the current pandemic being “the judgement of God because of an immoral and corrupt government”.

Screencap from Abomination a DUP Opera

Abomination: a DUP Opera was made available on the QFT Player on 3 April 2020. It was a collaboration between the Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts.