2012 – Good Intentions

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 2012


Synopsis: Who can resist temptation? If your heart’s desire were available right now, would you sign away your future? Do good intentions always lead to good outcomes? And how come that weird looking teacher knows how to summon a demon?

Good Intentions asks questions like these, as we follow a group of school children on a journey to hell and back. They’re tempted by instant popularity, celebrity status, must-have brands and the desire to fit in and give up their individuality. Will they succumb or will they save their schoolmates?

The answers are to be found in this funny, poignant and utterly modern Faustian tale, brought to you by W11 Opera for Young People.


Composer Julian Philips  Good Intentions Cover 2012
Librettist Simon Christmas
Music Director Philip Sunderland

Soloists

Joanna, an earnest young woman, Maggie, Helen and Gretchen, three girls who sit at the front of the class,Jem, a Raffer, Sash, a Teeno, Jagz, a Ditcha, Dr Dee/The Devil, also disguised as a PHSE teacher, Asmodeus, a demon, Mephistopheles, a demonic sales rep Scrunchwing, a senior bat, Wibblestretch, his apprentice, The Crow, Mephistopheles’ area manager, Burp, Chief of the Infernal Bureaucracy and The Presenter of a talent show

Groups

The Raffers, the Teenos and the Ditchas, three social groups in the school, Imps, Bats, Scorpions and Toads, Three Trios of Retailers, A chorus of Penniless Consumers, A chorus of Credit Angels, A panel of four Judges, The Mixed Up Kids, A chorus of Smokers, A chorus of Drinkers, A chorus of Boys  

Orchestra

Violin, Cello, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, Accordion, Harp, Piano, Percussion

 

Notes on Production:

A modern take on the Faust story set in a secondary school which tackles a range of topical teen issues with insight and humour and proved very popular with older cast.

An excellent score incorporating a range of music references from jazz and music theatre through to more complex harmonies requiring strength in the groups of students. There are some demanding but rewarding parts for older teens and the parts of Dr Dee and Mephistopheles could be played by adults. The animals provide fun groups for younger cast. The school gangs doubled as characters in the temptation sequences.

The scene changes were achieved through projection. Costume involved lots of school uniform differentiated for the school cliques but there was also the challenge of the scorpions, toads and bats.

Running time 80 minutes.


Music and video

Here


Plot

Scene 1: Playground

School children are bemoaning their unfulfilled desires. They belong to three gangs – Raffers, Ditchas and Teenos.  Mephistopheles and his devilish Bats, Scorpions and Toads enter to tempt gang members into signing contracts which will give them their heart’s desire in exchange for goodness knows what. Jagz signs for a cool pair of shoes, Jem becomes the most popular Raffer, and Sash gets to be the best Teeno dancer.  Right-on Joanna Fosset wishes to end poverty, be kind to animals and increase peace, love and understanding. Mephisto and the bats Scrunchwing and Wibblestretch try to persuade her to settle for a less lofty aim, but she resists.

Scene 2:  Classroom

Gretchen, Helen and Maggie sit at the front; Gretchen trying to work, Helen trying to earwig the Teenos, and Maggie hoping no-one will notice her. Helen is rebuffed and takes it out on Gretchen; Gretchen wants the Ditchas’ respect and picks on Helen; Maggie tells Helen and Gretchen to stop fighting, but they mock her poverty.  The PSHE teacher Dr Dee (for Devil) explains that the term’s topic is temptation. The class first mocks Joanna’s piousness and then tries to interrupt her talk of contracts, but Dr Dee knows all about Mephisto and who he works for.  Joanna decides they have to get the contracts back.  Dr Dee says it is dangerous but possible, they’d have to travel to the Devil’s home at the bottom of the bottomless pit. Only someone who can resist temptation could do it. Helen, Gretchen and Maggie are persuaded by flattery to take on the journey. Dr Dee summons a demon, the disgustingly smelly Asmodeus, who will show them the way to the pit.

Scene 3: On a Barren Hilltop

Mephisto’s Animals enter exhausted after a hard day’s work. Scrunch and Wibble count the day’s record number of signed contracts and the Animals enumerate their aches and pains. Mephisto boasts of his prowess at tempting but The Crow points out that Joanna did not succumb and is coming to retrieve the contracts.  To assuage the Devil’s anger Mephisto must tempt Joanna.

Scene 4: Journey to the Bottom of the Bottomless Pit

Asmodeus, Joanna and the unhappy Maggie, Gretchen and Helen are in a dank and dreary place. Joanna tries to stiffen their resolve and asks Asmodeus to cheer them up.  He sings that ‘All good things come to an end’.

Mephisto enters and ‘freezes’ the girls whilst his Animals bring in the first temptation: shopping. Retailers tempt Penniless Consumers with special offers and Credit Angels arrive with deals brokered by Mephisto. Maggie joins the queue for credit so that she can buy nice things for her sister and is led off.  Joanna is saddened by the unfairness because Maggie was trying to be kind.  Asmodeus says that ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’.

A second temptation is celebrity. The Presenter announces girl band The Mixed Up Kids, who don’t impress Joanna and Gretchen. But Helen is carried away by the allure of celebrity and slinks off whilst the Panel of Judges deliver their damning verdict on MUK. The Presenter introduces Helen, who sings and then signs a recording contract with Mephisto.

The third temptation is being ‘grown up’. Gretchen cannot resist Smokers, Drinkers and Boys. She desires to seize the day and party hard, leaving Joanna furious.

Scene 5: The Bottom of the Bottomless Pit

Imps are busy typing, sorting and filing contracts. The Crow asks chief imp Burp about Mephisto’s progress and mock the doomed. When Mephisto arrives, he is lampooned for missing out on Joanna’s contract. Dr Dee, the Devil, arrives to punish Mephisto; she insists that everyone has a weakness. When Joanna is led in, the Devil and the Imps hail her as their victor.  The Devil cunningly praises Joanna’s plan to ensure that people do good; she explains that free will is wasted on the weak-minded and that “Good intentions pave the road to paradise”.

Scene 6:  Joanna on the Way Home

Joanna is excited by the prospect of doing good and changing the world, but realises something might be wrong.  Asmodeus tells her good intentions are what matters and thinks he has persuaded her to enforce goodness, but Joanna recalls his phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Scene 7: Back in the Classroom

Maggie is now one of the Raffers; Helen a Teeno and Gretchen a Ditcha.  They wonder about Joanna and the contracts; they don’t want to lose what they’ve got. Joanna enters with the contracts, followed by Dr Dee and the Creatures of Hell.  Dr Dee praises Joanna’s cleverness, but Joanna reflects that she has been confused about her motives. She realises that she has been too sanctimonious and concludes that people must take responsibility for their own destinies.

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