Thursday 9th & Friday 10th August, 21.05 – 21.25


Fourfortytwo and The Blackburn Company



Both Philip and Nick were interested in exploring new approaches to writing opera, choosing to focus on explicit themes, and bringing opera closer to the worlds of theatre and film. UNLEASHED originated in nightclubs all over Manchester. It existed first as an extensive collection of conversations about various aspects of gay sex, with a tendency towards the extreme. The conversations were transcribed word-for-word, chopped up and re-structured to serve as “libretto” for the opera. This fragments in turn are organized around legal transcript for the Laskey, Jaggard, Brown Case, an incident of consensual violent sex for which the participants were prosecuted and imprisoned by the state.


The acts consisted in the main of maltreatment of the genitalia (with, for example, hot wax, sandpaper, fish hooks and needles) and ritualistic beatings either with the assailant’s bare hands or a variety of implements, including stinging nettles, spiked belts and a cat-o’-nine tails” (Laskey, Jaggard Brown vs United Kingdom, 1990)


UNLEASHED is about what men want, told from the perspective of men who want to have really hard sex with each other.


What were they proud of?

What did they regret?

Most of all: how far would they go?


UNLEASHED is an opera about coping with a violent world, exploring sex at the limits and why we find ourselves there. It offers a powerful perspective on sexuality, violence and masculinity in our modern world. UNLEASHED uses real text from interview transcripts with men about their sex lives – none of it is fiction or fantasy.


Philip’s music: “brutally effective” (The Times); “brutally exhilarating” (Seen & Heard); “a dark and violent portrait of sexual desire” by

Nick’s direction: “hugely imaginative” (Londonist)


Presented by Fourfortytwo and the Blackburn Company

Generously supported by The Fidelio Charitable Trust


(photo: Nate Blanchard & Philip Venables)


Please note the following video contains extreme language which some people might find offensive or upsetting


Music: Philip Venables

Words & Direction: Nick Blackburn



Kris Belligh

Ken Christiansen
Richard Dodwell
Martin Lissola
Simon Prag

Stephen Upshaw


Violas: Stephen Upshaw & Martin Lissola


Philip Venables: Philip Venables’ music is often concerned with violence, politics and speech within concert music and opera. His work has been recently described as “brutally effective” (The Times), “brutally exhilarating” (Seen & Heard), “duly playful and occasionally disturbing” (The Guardian) and “a dark and violent portrait of sexual desire” ( Philip was born in Chester in 1979 and now lives in Berlin and London. Performers of his work have included the BBCSO, BBC Philharmonic, LSO, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble 10-10, Ensemble Adapter (Berlin), LUX Ensemble (Vienna), Black Dyke Brass Band and Rambert Dance Co.


Nick Blackburn: The Blackburn Company uses radical staging techniques to lead audiences into strange and deeply emotional worlds. The group is committed to dangerous theatre that collides actors, video and music in bold, innovative productions. Nick Blackburn has worked for The Wooster Group and English National Opera. Recent projects include the first showing of the Unmastered work at L’Institut français in London, and a production of Troilus and Cressida with The Wooster Group, co-directed by Mark Ravenhill for the RSC.


Ken Christiansen: Ken trained at Drama Centre, London. Theatre includes Lord of the Flies (Regents Park), Antony and Cleopatra, and A Jovial Crew (all RSC), Fool for Love (ETT), and An Inspector Calls (NT/West End). TV includes Coronation Street, History File: Germany (BAFTA winner), Cracker, Casualty, Holby City, Midsomer Murders. Films include Treacle, War Bride, and the forthcoming Last Day On Earth.

Kris Belligh: Kris studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Scottish Academy. He made his international debut in Il Barbiere di Sevilla at the Opéra de Rennes. He recently sang the role of Schade in the world-premiere of Zatopek! for the Cultural Olympics. Upcoming engagements include Angelotti Tosca and Lieder recitals with Graham Johnson in the 2013 Schubertiade in Israel.

Simon Prag: Simon studied drama at the University of Exeter. Since graduating he has been a member of the resident theatre company at Camden’s Roundhouse, with whom he toured the original production @Virtually_Real. Other theatre credits include Circular Doorways (Oval House Theatre Company) and Drive Ride Walk (Filament Theatre). Film credits include Happy Face (Silent Shout Studios) and Butterfly (Team Angelica).