Clocks 1888 - A Q&A with the Directors

26 Jan 2016

Clocks 1888

We interviewed Rachana Jadhav and Dr Dominic Hingorani, the Co-Artistic directors of Brolly Productions and Clocks 1888 - the greener about this new epic opera premiering at Cast in April about where this new piece of work came from.

What were your main inspirations for the show?

We have been making this opera over two years and it started like most of our work with the two of us wandering around London having coffee and chatting and sharing ideas.
Rachana with her designers eye had seen the range of beautiful public clocks in London and had an idea that inside each was a clocketeer - a caretaker who looks after the clock -so we walked all over town looking at public clocks from different times and designs and thinking up the different clocketeers who would run them and their stories.

We wanted to make a groundbreaking new opera work Clocks 1888 the greener to change the idea that opera is an elitist art form and make it accessible both artistically and financially for new diverse young audiences.

Why have you chosen to set the show in the East End of London?

Our favourite clock we saw was a Victorian clock in Stepney Green, East London called 'Education and Benevolence'. We decided on this one not only for the clock itself but also the area of East London where we often make work - which has its share of problems but is also the most diverse, dynamic and creative place.  In 1888 the issues of immigration, flexible labour markets and new technologies were as important then as they are today.

Immigration is one of the key themes in the show. Can you explain its significance and how it’s portrayed?
Cultural concerns about immigration are not new – London and especially the East End at that time featured immigration from Ireland, central and Eastern Europe especially Jewish émigrés from Russia, Poland and Germany as well as the historical presence of Black and Asian communities as a result of colonialism and imperialism.
We wanted to reflect this in the opera so that is why the central character of the opera is 'the greener' - which is cockney slang for immigrant. This opera is a celebration of London's creative diversity and so she speaks and sings in a mix of all migrant languages alongside English - a real contemporary London girl!
We think it very important and artistically exciting to draw on, celebrate and reflect the rich and diverse stories of the East End that dynamically link the past to the present.

Why have you chosen opera as the medium through which to tell this story?
As a company we want to make exciting performance work that also asks questions not only of society but also the arts, so we do some things differently in this opera;
We make work in which form is led by content and we believe opera is the ideal medium to tell this story as its heightened form is capable of scale, spectacle and great intimacy. The clock is central to the story and the digital animation allows the clock to be epic in scale which then integrates with the live performance.
Can you tell us more about the show’s central character?

There are three other dramatic characters alongside Greener that are drawn from the untold lives of the East End at that the time:
'Ma' is The old Indian woman who looks after the greener. She is based on the true histories of ayahs or 'nanny’s' in India who were employed by British colonials to look after their children and sometimes brought back to England. However, once the children were old enough the ayahs were often left destitute. In 1855 the issue first came to light when it was discovered that 50 to 60 ayahs were living in a disreputable lodging house in Ratcliffe Highway in the East End of London and charged exorbitant rents until penniless and abandoned in the metropolis. In 1900 a Home for ayahs was set up in Mare Street Hackney where Hackney Empire Theatre is. She speaks in English and Hindi and her music draws on the classical Indian tradition.

'Coster' is short for costermonger or street seller. Coster does anything he can to make a living as there was no welfare at that time and he is driven by the time he spent in the workhouse - a well documented and brutal punishment for those who were homeless and penniless. One of the jobs in the workhouse was to break flint (stone) a piece of which broke off into his eye leaving him with a glass eye. He also speaks and sings with a lot of cockney rhyming slang – not all of it clean - influenced by the music halls or 'penny gaffs' of the time.

‘Author’ is a well to do young gentleman from the West End of London who  is basically ‘slumming’ in the East End. 'Slumming' was a new phenomena that emerged in the 1880’s on an unprecedented scale for both curiosity and thrill seekers after disreputable entertainment went to see how the poor slum dwellers of the East End lived.
We are really excited about the show, and hope you like it too, but we also need to work very hard to reach our audience who may be first time to an arts events and certainly to an opera.


About Brolly Productions

Rachana Jadhav – Co-Artistic Director of Brolly

Rachana is an award winning theatre designer, illustrator, creative producer and co-Artistic Director of Brolly which he formed with Dominic Hingorani in 2010. She trained as an architect at Edinburgh College of Art and studied MA Scenography at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, London. She has designed for The National Theatre of Scotland, Contact Theatre, Sheffield Crucible, National Theatre, Naach Theatre Company (co-founder), Rasa Productions, Unicorn Theatre, Southbank, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Stratford Circus, Oxfordshire Touring Company, Conspirators’ Kitchen, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Polka Theatre. Her illustration commissions include, ‘Interactions’, an anthology of short stories and poems published by Roast Books for the charity ‘Interact’, who work with stroke survivors.

Dr Dominic Hingorani – Co Artistic Director of Brolly

Dr Dominic Hingorani is an academic, playwright, theatre director and co-Artistic Director of Brolly which he formed with Rachana Jadhav in 2010. His recent work as playwright and director includes Clocks 1888 the greener (Brolly in association Hackney Empire, 2016); her (Brolly in partnership with Half Moon Theatre, 2016); Guantanamo Boy (Brolly, 2013). He is a Reader in Theatre and Performance at the University of East London and his research is focused on contesting the position of minority and marginalized performance practices within the mainstream in particular British Asian theatre and Theatre for Young Audiences and his published work includes the monograph (2010) British Asian Theatre - Dramaturgy Process and Performance. Dominic originally trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and worked professionally in theatre, film, television and radio

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