Postcards from Dumbworld, Grand Opera House, Belfast Friday 22 October

In typically unconventional fashion, composer Brian Irvine continues to confound with his latest opera. 

Familiarity with Brian Irvine’s musical and compositional career leaves one in the happy position of thinking that you know what to expect. Amusingly, one experiences a typical unconventionality surrounding this first complete performance of his latest opera Postcards from Dumbworld.

I'm intrigued by the symbiotic relationship which has grown up between Irvine and his co-conspirator in all things unorthodox, John McIlduff. The latter wrote the deceptively deranged libretto

Backing all of the singers is the latest incarnation of the Brian Irvine Ensemble, which again proves that its members would doubtlessly sell their souls to achieve what their eponymous leader desires. I could not envisage members of any other musical entity behaving like lunatics to get the exact effect required. But I am not fooled: these musicians are highly capable performers and skilled improvisers….a totally professional production .Most of those individuals are not exactly ordinary but each one of them portrays, in a heightened sense, aspects of personality which are entirely recognisable by each and every one of us. Characters such as Morris the 30-something who hasn’t quite managed to find his role in life; Shirley, his concerned mother and slightly larger than life bingo caller; Eddie the fantasist misfit; the shy repressed librarian; the duo of hoodie bullies. And others. Dumbworld is evidently full of these people. But is it a world I want to contemplate?

And maybe here is the real point behind this opera. Brian Irvine’s eccentrically individual music creates a sensitive and sympathetic space in which these operatic characters can find a voice. I don’t think this is 'an opera with a mission' but like all good art, Postcards from Dumbworld can generously transform the unlikeable into the acceptable - and, through its many moments of humour and pathos, maybe provide us with a sensitive little glimpse of whatever heaven is to us.

Philip Hammond