Clocks 1888: The Greener at Hackney Empire
East London, 1888: the year that the matchgirls from Bryant and May went on strike for better working conditions in Bow and Jack the Ripper committed a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel. The Victorian East End was known for its poverty, overcrowding and social unrest and it is in this bleak context that Dolly Productions’ modern opera Clocks 1888: The Greener is firmly placed.
The narrative follows a young migrant girl who attempts to exercise her genius whilst running the clock at the heart of the East End. She is under the supervision of a kind, elderly Asian woman and a mean East End employer when she is discovered by a gentleman from the chic West End of London.
The piece is played out to the backdrop of the interior to a huge Victorian clock. Somewhat open to interpretation, the clock is a powerful constant, perhaps symbolic of the mechanical industrial climate of the time. It remains the set for the entirety of the piece, chugging and turning along in time to the music. The score, composed by Martin Ward, is also somewhat mechanical in its rhythm and varies between highly emotional and darkly comical pieces. Whilst each of the cast members is a pleasure to watch, the true operatic talent lies with Patricia Rozario in the role of Ma, her voice hypnotising as she demonstrates influence from Indian music through her singing.
The content of the narrative, however, is packed with a number of social and political dialogues and before long becomes slightly overwhelming. Each character seemingly represents a different issue and each is treated with equal vigour, rather than the piece focusing on one in more depth. It is also worth brushing up on a bit of Victorian London knowledge in preparation for this show in order to fully understand terms such as “wiper” or indeed “greener”, which is referenced in the title.
Musically intriguing with a busy narrative, Clocks 1888: The Greener runs for a limited time only at the Hackney Empire.
Clocks 1888: The Greener is on at Hackney Empire from 20th until 22nd April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: