1986 – The Tin Knight – ABOUT

The Tin Knight

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1986. Also performed by other opera companies; please see its entry on the Revivals page.

Synopsis: A tale of love and daring deeds among the shelves of a supermarket.

Composer Francis Shaw  
Librettist Michael Finch
Music Director Nicholas Kraemer
Soloists Margaret, Leon, Tin Knight, King Caustic, Ice Queen, Pineapple, Signor Buitoni, Cockerel
Groups Tins, Fresh Foods and Dry Foods, Sugars/ Puddings/ Cheeses, King Caustic’s Gang, Frozen Vegetables, Drumsticks, Italian Foods, Indian Foods, Beefburgers
Orchestra 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Piano/ Synthesiser, 2 Percussion

Notes on Production: A fantastical story of love among the groceries in a corner shop at night. The theme and plot have universal appeal.

Musically tuneful and mostly unison singing, relatively simple score. Appropriate for all ages.

One set only is required, and few props, while there is great scope for amusing costume design. A few special effects could be introduced such as dry ice to indicate “The Freezer”.

Running time 60 minutes.


Part 1

In Rafferty’s corner shop, Margaret and Leon, who are looking after the shop in Mr. Rafferty’s absence, are shutting up for the night. As Leon tidies up he knocks over a pile of tins which suddenly spring into life. He and Margaret watch with astonishment as everything in the shop – the sugars, the cheeses, the packets, the fresh foods – all come alive. When the hubbub dies down, all in the shop watch the Tin Knight who is setting out in yet another attempt to rescue his beloved Pineapple. Pineapple has been enslaved by the evil Ice Queen who keeps her frozen with all the frozen foods in the Ice Cave.

Margaret and Leon watch from the shadows. But the Tin Knight’s passage is barred by the obstructive King Caustic and his gang (who then assault him with a giant tin opener). He is saved only by the intervention of Leon and Margaret.

Part 2

The Ice Queen in her cave boasts of her power over all fresh foods. Pineapple pleads to be released. Refused, she vows that her love for the Tin Knight shall deliver her from the Ice Queen’s power. By way of reply the Ice Queen demonstrates how the frozen drumsticks are in her complete power. Pineapple once more proclaims that her love for the Tin Knight will bring about her release.

Part 3

The Tin Knight, still watched by Leon and Margaret, continues on his quest. The Italian foods try to divert him with their wares. But after a brief pause he resumes his journey.

The Ice Queen appears, threatening that not only will the Tin Knight never succeed in releasing Pineapple, but also that Leon and Margaret are to be removed from the scene. Instantly she turns her attention on Leon and nearly succeeds in turning him to ice. Margaret however turns on the Ice Queen and reminds her that away from her icy cave, her power will wane. Sulkily the Queen retires to her freezer kingdom.

Part 4

The Indian foods extol the heat of their curries and offer them to the Tin Knight. But he believes that only fire will enable him to overcome the Ice Queen. King Caustic appears, this time in a helpful mood and offers matches, fire lighters etc. He and his gang set off for the Ice Queen’s cave where they find Pineapple bemoaning her fate. The rescuers are joined by the Beefburgers who offer their strength in the fight against the Queen.

Thus supported, and with Leon and Margaret still watching, the Tin Knight confronts the Ice Queen. His first attempt to rescue Pineapple, by means of King Caustic’s fire-raising equipment, fails. But Pineapple is saved at last, when the Tin Knight realises the greater strength of the power of Love. He overcomes the Ice Queen and all acclaim that Love is the greatest strength of all. Pineapple and the Tin Knight thank all their helpers and all in the shop wish them joy in their future life together.