All in the Mind – 2004
A mission to commission! Since its inception over 30 years ago, W11 Opera has been commissioning new works for its company of schoolchildren aged nine to 18 in west London . All in the Mind by Edward Lambert is their 26th world premiere, a terrific achievement for a company that relies solely on private donations and the stalwart teams of parents and other supporters who are responsible for all the practical aspects of the production. The large cast of over a hundred represented 30 local schools and included primary schoolchildren who had been given bursary support to enable them to take part.
And this company likes a challenge. Edward Lambert’s score and libretto are certainly demanding for the young singers, even more so than previous productions I have attended (David Knotts Stormlight 2002, Guy Dagul Game Over 2003).
The story concerns a gigantic artificial Brain that tells of its birth on the White Moon several millennia before in the laboratories of Clever Clones plc. The company of Scientists, Bureaucrats, Engineers and Telepathists is suddenly threatened by a drop in the share price and the Emperor, flanked by Ministers, Courtiers and Guards, makes a bold take-over bid. The result is a new breed of Clones using personalities of Ancient Earthlings stored digitally; however, the Scientists are sceptical and maintain that life has lessons which only experience can teach. With the Earthlings on their side, and with the support of the Brain, they overthrow the Emperor and put a prisoner Nic Night in his place, who promptly outlaws cloning and reinvents Clever Clones as Clever Phones that respond to musicians’ brainwaves.
Director Jamie Hayes made imaginative use of the Britten Theatre stage and side stalls areas with the large cast and the vibrant costumes designed by Mike Lees helped to identify each group of protagonists clearly. The writing is tonally complex, often with large leaps in the melodies for the singers to negotiate. Music Director Philip Colman gave them strong leadership with a small orchestra of five players. The result was a good ensemble with notable solos from The Brain (Oliver Wiggins), Nic Night (Milly Kenny-Ryder), Emperor Mighty Rich (Olivia Willis) and a short confident solo from one of the youngest cast members, Emily Birch.