d w a r d   K e m p



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Opera and Dance



Ballet inspired by Ibsen’s play
Premiere Royal Ballet at Linbury Studio 22 September 2005
Choreographer – Cathy Marston, Music – Dave Maric, Design – Jon Bausor, Lighting – Simon Bennison, Video – Peter Anderson, Dramaturg – Edward Kemp
Mrs Alving – Charlotte Broom, Young Mrs Alving – Clemmie Sveass, Captain Alving – Christopher Akrill, Pastor Manders- Omar Gordon, Johanna – Martina Langmann, Oswald – Matthew Hart, Regina – Jenny Tattersall
Click here for the Ghosts website

As a choreographer Cathy Marston has never been one to take the easy option. She likes books and plays and literary constructs, and she doesn't see why a wordless medium like dance shouldn't be able to find an equivalent. Previous inspirations have included aspects of the holocaust novel Sophie's Choice and Shakespeare's Tempest, but until now she has shrunk from tackling an entire narrative - with good reason. At first sight the idea of adapting Ghosts, Ibsen's grim 1881 study of syphilis and hypocrisy, looks doomed to fail. Two of Ibsen's characters are only ever talked about in the play, while those that do appear spend their time referring to events long ago. Yet this has not deterred Marston, who with the help of dramaturg Edward Kemp, answers Ibsen's tense, retrograde structure with a perfectly logical time-scheme of her own.

Her key ploy is to show cause and effect simultaneously, bringing past and present together. Jon Bausor's set divides the stage into scullery and parlour, identical but for the white damask cloth on the table, allowing us to view below-stairs and upstairs both at once. So when the curtain rises on Mrs Alving offering herself to the local pastor in a desperate bid to escape her philandering, pox-ridden husband, we also see that husband groping the maid in the scullery. Later, when Christopher Akrill's repulsive Captain Alving finally succumbs to the disease and is laid out on the parlour table stage left, stage right we see his adult son happily rogering the result of that earlier union - his half-sister, if he did but know it - on the same scullery table. The doubling is further enriched (and only rarely over-complicated) by the presence of two Mrs Alvings - Clemmie Sveass and Charlotte Broom - one the fretting youthful memory of the other.

The clammy claustrophobia of this story can be intolerable. Knowing this, Marston brightens a few corners, inserting a gorgeous bread-making scene for the two maids in which they prance round the table playfully poking their elbows in great lumps of dough (a substance whose sexual suggestiveness is useful). There are also ravishing duets for the younger maid Johanna (an appealing Jenny Tattersall) and Matthew Hart's seal-pup of an Oswald, all bounce and hopefulness, but already stricken with syphilitic headaches.

Dave Maric's score, avidly played by a small ensemble, owes a lot to Hitchcock's films, jabbing through the sticky atmosphere like a knife or marking the domestic tedium with a ticking pulse. Grey-on-grey video of puddling rain and ice by Peter Anderson compounds the sense of endless nordic gloom. Yet to everyone's credit the ballet's 70 minutes feel short. – Jenny Gilbert Independent on Sunday


Ballet on the life of Clara Schumann
Awaiting commission
Choreographer – Cathy Marston, Dramaturg – Edward Kemp, Design – Jon Bausor, Music – Martin Ward
Developed in association with the Jerwood Foundation and Cove Park Artists’ Centre

Nos Vies En Rose

Dance-theatre piece inspired by the film Alain Berliner’s film Ma Vie En Rose
Workshopped by NYMT at Birmingham Hippodrome Studio Summer 2003 Director – Pete Harris, Choreographer – Ayse Tashkiran, Dramaturg – Edward Kemp

Ivan The Terrible

Revised narration for concert oratorio of Prokofiev's music for Eisenstein's film
Premiere BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall 18 July 2003, live relay on BBC 2 and Radio 3
Mezzo-soprano - Irina Tchistyakova, Bass-baritone - James Rutherford, Narrator - Simon Russell Beale, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Conductor - Leonard Slatkin
Click here to buy the recording

After Figaro

10 minute opera to be staged in the bar during a performance of The Marriage Of Figaro
Premiere Music Theatre London at Drill Hall, 1 June 2003
Music – Terry Davies, Libretto – Edward Kemp, Director – Tony Britton Cast – Daniel Gillingwater, Sarah Redmond

A Heroic Death

Opera after the prose poem by Baudelaire
Premiere Red Herring at Wilton’s Music Hall 22 November 1994
Music – Alwynne Pritchard, Libretto – Edward Kemp, Director - Edward Kemp, Design - Jane Heather
Cast – Linda Hirst, Martin Lindsay, Lore Lixenburg


Fragment of an opera about Eleanor Marx translating Madame Bovary
Premiere ENO Contemporary Opera Studio at Donmar Warehouse June 1993
Music – Sally Beamish, Libretto – Edward Kemp, Director/Designer – David Fielding

Travels In The Arctic Circle

Premiere Royal Opera House Garden Venture at the Riverside Studios 28 May 1993
Music – Geoff Westley, Libretto – Edward Kemp, Conductor – David Firman, Director – Jeremy Sutcliffe, Design – Colin Maxwell, Lighting – Ace McCarron Seal – John Addison, Walker – Gwion Thomas, Tern – Adele Paxton, Bear – Lynton Black Violas – Sue Bicknell, Bridget Carey, Celli – Jane Salmon, Jonathan Tunnell, Piano – Brian Gascoigne, Percussion – Richard Benjafield
Click here to read the libretto



Opera after the novel by Knut Hamsun
Premiere TrugOpera at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival November 1992
Music – Alwynne Pritchard, Libretto – Edward Kemp, Director - Edward Kemp
Cast included Linda Hirst, Martin Lindsay


Premiere ROH Garden Venture at Dartington International Music School August 1991
Music – Corin Buckeridge, Libretto – Edward Kemp
Cast – Linda Hirst

A Queen Has Her Portrait Painted

Premiere ROH Garden Venture at ICA February 1991
Music – Agostin Fernandez, Libretto – Edward Kemp