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New opera by UEL Professor Dominic Hingorani to premiere at Maritime Museum

O2 arena

New opera, 'The Powder Monkey' features a diverse cast of characters

The Powder Monkey, a new opera by University of East London Professor Dominic Hingorani about an African Igbo boy born on a slave ship, will have its grand premiere in November at the National Maritime Museum.  
The opera is written and directed by Professor Hingorani, and produced in collaboration with several partners, including internationally acclaimed composer Errollyn Wallen MBE, who created the music.

The opera is set in 1788 and tells the story of ‘powder monkey’ Chukwunenye (powder monkey was the name for boys on ships who carried the powder used for guns and artillery). Chukwunenye is one voyage away from buying his freedom. As the ship nears port, there is an uprising by the captured slaves and he must choose which side he will take: his people or his freedom?

Professor Hingorani said, “The Powder Monkey opens the borders of the opera form by drawing on the traditional music of West Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the folk forms of North of England and maritime creole work songs. They reflect the diverse and often hidden histories that have made contemporary Britain.”

The opera features a diverse cast of characters, and integrates live performance, music and animation.

Professor Hingorani produced the opera under his production company, Brolly Productions, in collaboration with designer and illustrator Rachana Jadhav. Other partners are Ms Wallen, the National Maritime Museum and Opera North. It received support from Arts Council England, the University of East London and the Kaye Pemberton Charitable Trust.

Professor Hingorani said, “For a number of years I have been focusing on productions which offer opportunities for a diverse range of students from all backgrounds, as I think there is a lack of representation of BAME students in the arts. My role at the University of East London enables me to see opportunities to close this gap in the performing arts.

“As a BAME-led company we aim to engage new and diverse artists and audiences, especially among those who may not have been involved in arts events before. We believe that both the stage and the company should reflect the diversity of our audience.”

Professor Hingorani said his Brolly company collaborates with a range of cultural and advocacy organisations at local and national level to develop networks, platforms and agency for their audience through an exchange initiative.

In addition to the National Maritime Museum, The Powder Monkey will show at other venues in October and November: The Albany, Deptford and Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent as well as at Newham's Black History Festival.

Professor Hingorani, who has worked at the University of East London for 11 years, runs his theatre company alongside his work at the University, which involves running postgraduate programmes in acting and theatre directing, as well as conducting research.
He has been writing and producing shows and offering opportunities for black and Asian artists for over a decade. He lives in north London with his family.

‘Powder Monkey’ can be seen at the following dates and times:

Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent: Tues 29 Oct, 1pm/7pm;
The Albany, Deptford; Thurs 31 Oct, 7.30pm
Newham's Black History Festival; Newham Town Hall; Fri 1 Nov, 7pm
The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; The Great Map; Tues 5 Nov, 7pm.
Tickets for all shows are available from the Brolly website.