Half way through Damon Albarn's modern opera Dr Dee last night I wondered how on earth he ever came up with the idea for such a performance. It was bewildering. Part Derek Jarman, a bit of Spinal Tap and a sprinkling of Blackadder. As a spectacle it was a triumph. As a piece of theatre and performance there was much to admire. But could I follow it? Not really. I got the hang of it in the second half as I have friends who understand these things better than me and explained things at the break. The moral of the story, I suppose, is this: the Catholics might have roughed you up for your zany scientific ways, but trusting these dodgy sorcerers was only ever going to bring grief.
In a sense, it's what the Manchester International Festival is all about: challenging you to broaden your thinking and experience new cultural forms. That said, it would have been nice if Damon Albarn had dramatically ended the performance with an Elizabethan alchemist's version of Parklife.