Friday 2 October 2020

Bringing a memoir to life: after workshop performances in 2018, Tom Smail's opera BLUE ELECTRIC, based on his wife Alba Arikha's memoir, receives its premiere

Tom Smail: Blue Electric - Playground Theatre

is a collaboration between writer Alba Arikha and her composer husband Tom Smail, inspired by her memoir of her childhood, Major/Minor. The opera debuted in 2018 at Tete a Tete as a work in progress [see Anthony's review], and the finished work is being premiered at the Playground Theatre on 27 October 2020. The new production is directed by Orpha Phelan, conducted by Shaun Matthew and features Mimi Doulton, Jonathan Brown, Helen Charlston, Camilla Seale, Christopher Bowen, and Emily Wenman. 

Alba Arikha grew up in Paris in the 1980s, and her memoir tells her story -  falling in love, rebelling, searching for her identity, except that her father is the artist Avigdor Arikha and the playwright Samuel Beckett is her godfather, and that her adolescent existence takes place against her father's secret history of war, holocaust and exile. Avigdor Arikha was born to Jewish parents in what was then Romania, he and his family were deported to Romanian-run concentration camps in 1941. Avigdor Arikha's father died, but he survived partly thanks to his drawings of deportation scenes which he showed to the International Red Cross.

The opera which was performed in 2018 was a 40-minute work-in-progress directed by Hugh Hudson. At the Playground Theatre, Orpha Phelan directs the full version of the work. It was when re-reading his wife's memoir in 2017 that Tom Smail  realised he could hear “music in the words” and began to explore what more there was to say, and these performances are the end result of that journey.

Full details from the Playground Theatre website.

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