Workshops for the new Merton Opera

Workshop at St Marks Academy

Workshop at St Marks Academy

We’re well underway with our planning for the full production of Drifting Dragons, our new promenade street opera kindly supported by the Arts Council, The Philip Bates Trust and The Humphrey Richardson Taylor Charitable Trust. We’ve been back into community organisations including the wonderful Merton & Morden Guild and New Horizon Centre to talk to people about the project, show them the filming from the R&D and get their thoughts on both what should happen next in the story and where we should perform on the high streets of Merton.

Students workshop at St Marks Academy

Workshop at St Marks Academy

Meanwhile, we’ve also run workshops for some brilliant young people teaching them to sing and act out some of our opera themselves. We taught them to sing some of our music, discussed the difference between an aria and a duet, and how to play a character while singing and playing a scene. We’ve seen some brilliant characters and heard some fantastic singing at Lonesome Primary, The Priory Church of England Primary and St Marks Academy, so we’re hoping the students will come along to the performances and give our professional opera singers some tips on how it’s done ☺

And I’m currently running round talking to supermarkets and cafes and getting everything organised for our high street performance locations so expect to see us on your high street very soon!

“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…”

We’ve had a busy few months with our outreach for A Secret Life. We’ve been meeting many wonderful local people and hearing all about their teenage years – and I’ve been popping into Wimbledon Guild so frequently recently I feel like I’m almost part of the team there now! We’ve heard about people’s very different school experiences and yet how career options for women in particular were so very limited for so many years (mostly nursing or secretarial or working in a shop). We’ve interviewed people aged 65 years to 92 years old (the wonderful Derek) at both community centres and individually. The ladies at Merton & Morden Guild kept us laughing with their hilarious first date stories, while at the Katherine Low Settlement we heard what it was like growing up gay when being gay was still illegal…

Meanwhile, it’s also been great fun engaging young people with the audio recordings of elderly people’s memories and how it compares to their own experiences. I think some of the Year 10s at St Marks Academy, Mitcham were surprised to hear Jim (age 82) started smoking when he was 12 and gave up when he was 14, while Jane’s story of not wanting to go to a party because she couldn’t afford the ‘right’ thing to wear resonated with some of the girls. We talked about their stresses about exams and career choices and the pressure on image today, especially with the positives and negatives of social media.

If you’re coming along to see A Secret Life (and you should because it’s going to be great!) you’ll get to hear the words of some of the real people we’ve spoken to as part of the script that Tamara Micner is currently beavering away at putting together. You can book tickets here.

For now, we’ll leave you with a few of the things we’ve heard:

“I had several boyfriends but this time they all came to the door together at half past seven. All to pick me up. My mother was fuming…I was a proper flirt. I just knew when to stop.”

“I wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema, my mum and dad didn’t approve of going to the cinema til I was probably 13 or 14 probably, and that’s when I can remember Elvis Presley films coming out, and being an Elvis Presley fan and wanting to see all his films so that’s when we had to take our little white socks off and get in the queue and hope we’d get in even though we were under 15.”

“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…I did frustrate them, I know I did. I just went and did things that drove them crazy.”

Sneak peek of ‘Drifting Dragons’

If you weren’t lucky enough to make it along to our public sharing at the end of our Arts Council funded R&D of ‘Drifting Dragons’, you can get an idea of what we’re up to in this video. Thanks to Oskar McCarthy, Ayaka Tanimoto, Rosemary Hinton & Greg Harradine.

We’re now onto the next stage of the project planning for the full production in the summer. So if you like what you see stay tuned!