Opera of the Absurd

In a bright rehearsal room somewhere in the backstage labyrinth of London's Royal National Theatre, more than 30 men and women — soaring sopranos, firm baritones — are singing what sounds like a solemn Mass — Bach, perhaps. Except the words don't fit.

They abruptly launch into an eyebrow-raising staccato fugue — melodically intertwining the phrases "Chick with a dick," "My Mom used to be my Dad, snip, snip," and "I used to be a lap-dancing pre-operative transsexual" — and it becomes evident that possibly this is not Bach. Instead, it is British theater's most talked-about new...

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