1990 – Double Trouble – ABOUT

Double Trouble

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1990

Synopsis: The story is inspired by an ancient Chinese folk-tale in which the Hak-Taks discover a magic pot that makes a copy of everything that gets put inside it. The opera turns a rather innocent, happy, tale into one more relevant to today’s world.

Composer Louisa Lasdun  
Librettist Adam Thorpe
Music Director Wayne Marshall
Soloists Mrs Dig, Mr Dig, Eartha, Mrs Hurst, Mr Hurst, Mrs Hurst-Hurst, Mr Hurst-Hurst
Groups Planters, Retainers, Buskers, Knuckle Security, Topiary, Statues
Orchestra 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Horn, Bassoon, Trumpet, Percussion, Synthesizer, Tape Effects

Notes on Production: A simple morality fable, based on a traditional Chinese folk tale, involving haves and have-nots and a dose of magic which goes wrong. Easily understood by all ages, with plenty of humour.

Musically straightforward with echoes of the musical comedy tradition rather than the operatic genre; some tango and blues rhythms; two part singing and some declamation. DOUBLE TROUBLE is overall very easy for less experienced singers to learn and offering scope for large choruses, with 6-7 soloists needed. It could be performed by a younger age range than the W11 norm of 9-18 and is highly accessible for a younger cast. The only essential prop is a large “pot”; costume and design need not be time/place specific; cast could provide their own.

Running time 65-75 minutes.


Scene 1. A vast muddy field, drenched in rain, is filled with Potato Digs, tied to the seasons. A luckier neighbour, Mrs. Hurst, passes by. She reflects on the importance of keeping oneself smart – within earshot of the Digs, one of whom, Mrs. Dig bemoans her lot. Mrs. Hurst leaves to keep her hairdressing appointment. Mrs. Dig, defiant and proud, strikes something large and hard in the earth. The others are excited – it might be treasure.

Scene 2. It’s a pot, big and dirty – and empty. One group of Digs wants to smash it, the more inventive want to use it in some way, and think of lots of ways. The church bell rings out: it’s the end of another long day.

Scene 3. Mrs. Dig’s family are left gathering up their things. Eartha scores a point in the pot with a potato, and her mother is furious. Mrs. Hurst arrives and sings an ode to her technological, state-of-the-art existence. She shines her torch into the pot and smugly announces its contents: 2 potatoes. She leaves. The Family are puzzled: why two, when only one was thrown in? A little experimentation reveals the magic of this pot: it doubles whatever is put in! The Family spring into action.

Scene 4. A few months later, the Count and Countess Dig are partying in their mansion after a long trip abroad, jet setters trailed by their entourage. There’s no limit to their desires and the watching chorus comment on their spiralling aspirations. Mr. and Mrs. Hurst snoop, trying to discover the Digs secret. They do so when Countess Dig uses the pot to replace a lost pearl. Some Buskers enter the garden but they are swiftly dealt with.

Scene 5. Night. The magic pot stands in the Count’s formal topiary garden. Knuckle Security are around, but the Hursts sneak in with a bag of gold to act on their findings. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hurst falls in to the pot with predictable results. Mrs. Hurst and Mrs. Hurst-Hurst battle for identity. Then Mr. Hurst falls in and the quartet’s confusion is interrupted by Countess Dig lamenting her inner emptiness. The angry Hursts throw her into the pot, then fight each other.

Scene 6. Sunrise. Count Dig wanders into the garden, searching for his wife, feeling the cold of his wealth. He is comforted by Knuckle Security. The Hurst foursome wake up and triumphantly show the Count where his wife is. She pleads for his help. The Count celebrates their old love and his other, more material dreams. If he smashes the pot, these will be shattered too. The Potato Digs pass by the garden, on their way to the field. They cannot understand why the Count (once one of them) refuses to smash the pot and release his wife. He dare not say why, because the Digs told no-one else about the pot’s magic, and have shared nothing of their wealth. His dilemma is terrible…

Scene 7. “This is what counts.”


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