UEL lecturer directs innovative new opera

Keisha Atwell as The Greener and Dickon Gough as Coster

Keisha Atwell as The Greener and Dickon Gough as Coster - Credit: Dominic Hingorani

The inside of a giant clock in east London isn’t the most conventional setting for an opera.

Then again, Clocks 1888: The Greener isn’t your conventional opera.

The first of a trilogy, it is directed by University of East London lecturer Dominic Hingorani, who is part of Brolly.

“We’re making a new type of opera,” he said.

“We’ve got a diverse cast – our lead is actually from a musical theatre background – and it’s set in the East End.

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“It’s actually inspired by a clock in Stepney Green.”

Clocks’ protagonist is the Greener of the title, an intelligent but uneducated mixed race woman who keeps a giant clock running.

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When she is discovered by an explorer they are forced to choose between the worlds they know or each other.

The Greener is played by Keisha Atwell, who has appeared in West End shows, and is joined by opera veterans Patricia Rozario OBE, Dickon Gough and Adam Temple.

The opera has been two years in the making, with Dominic working on it alongside his role as a senior lecturer in UEL’s school of arts and digital industries.

“The university has been really supportive,” he said.

“The opera actually ties in with what I do.

“Working with the students at UEL, I realise that they may not have a lot of experience in the creative industries.

“That makes them tremendously innovative and fearless in creating and trying new forms.”

That innovation is reflected in the opera, with drawings by co-director Rachana Jadhav being projected onto the stage to depict the clock’s interior.

Clocks is aimed at giving opera fans something new to think about while enticing others who may not have considered the genre before.

“It’s in English, and it’s set somewhere people are likely to recognise,” said Dominic.

“The stories we are telling, which are the hidden histories of Britain, are something different.

“Something, we hope, that people will respond to and want to see.”

As for what’s next, Dominic said work is already underway on his second opera, set in 1759.

Clocks 1888: The Greener plays at Hackney Empire from Wednesday until Friday. Tickets cost from £10 and are available at hackneyempire.co.uk

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