Friday 16 October 2020

The children of Rathfern Primary School get creative: A Boat In An Endless Sea

A Boat in an Endless Sea - Rathfern Primary School, Kelly Poukens, Alastair White, Joel China

Despite lockdown, the children of Rathfern Primary School in Catford have managed to still be creative. Aided by soprano Kelly Poukens and composer Alastair White, [whose opera Robe we caught at Tête à Tête last year, see my review] the children have written and performed an experimental opera,  A Boat In An Endless Blue Sea which is being premiered on-line next Wednesday, 21 October 2020. The opera is about the children's experience of COVID-19, and the work utilises the on-line form with visual artist Joel China, through a fusion of graphic scores, conduction techniques, sound art, poetry and physical theatre, rather than trying to simply re-create a live opera on-line.

Alastair White explains, "In the spring of 2020, under Covid restrictions, it was no longer possible to create live opera. Rather than translating traditional performance online, we tried to see this as an opportunity to reimagine the form.  In doing so, we proceeded from the idea that: everything is always possible. Nothing lasts forever. Not youth, not political oppression, not even this universe. Central to this axiom is the notion of contingency - of non-relation, and total transformation.

Of course, the material basis of this was the fact that much of the process necessitated participants being separate and apart, linked digitally through videocall, projection and isolated recording. Strange at first, but new forms of relationship and community emerged from these breaks and spaces. And then, in turn, new techniques of storytelling - of understanding what was happening to one another, of what had happened to the world.

Rathfern Primary School is a vibrant community in Catford which pioneered the development of ‘learning about learning’, or metacognition. Led by Naheeda Maharasingam, with Max Ellington, Sally McPherson, Rose Powell and Olivia Zulver, their commitment to putting the individual at the heart of the educational experience is central to the opera’s process

The YouTube trailer for the work provides the Zoom link for the premiere, and the work will be available on YouTube after the premiere.

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