The Time Kings is a radical new theatre piece about TIME & COLONIALISM IN THE MUSIC HALL ERA, directed by Angela Clerkin, and devised with an ensemble of seven players. Our approach is a thrilling fusion of disciplines including autobiographical devising techniques, male impersonator/drag king acts, spoken word, improvisation, choreography, and a ‘heroes story’ structure. Our process is something akin to making a concept album i.e. each of the music hall acts will be self contained, but together they will transform into something greater, by the collective narrative they create.
The ACE supported R&D began with Angela researching music hall acts, the links between time & colonialism, male impersonators, black Victorians in Britain, the British Empire in 1880/90s, and looking at magnificent paper wigs on pinterest. She met with mentor Lee Simpson, visited The Clock Makers’ museum with David Rooney, author of Ruth Belville: The Greenwich Time Lady, and planned & plotted with producer Jen Lunn.
In January 2020 Angela directed two weeks of exploratory workshops, creating an ensemble and developing individual music hall acts. The Players are all women & enbys, mostly LGBTQ/working class & the majority are PoC.
Sarah Waters, author of Tipping the Velvet, visited our rehearsals, bringing her unique collection of Victorian Male Impersonator postcards. We took a walk up to the meridian line at Greenwich Observatory, and had the theory of time and relativity explained to us by Sarah Grange. We gathered around the piano singing Musical Hall songs played by Chris Goode, he also worked with various players on their acts. Mallin Parry led the costume explorations, again working with the group and individual acts. And Jeanifer Jean Charles choreographed a boy band dance number for the ensemble – later it will be transposed onto a music hall song. On the final day there was a ‘Show and Tell’ for an invited audience – watch a taster of our work on the youtube clip below.
“The Time Kings is one of those great productions which is at once distinctly period and fiercely contemporary. The parallels drawn between 19th century male impersonators and modern day drag kings allows Angela to tell a story of colonialism which reaches its murky tendrils right into the 21st century. The songs are great and I look forward to hearing more.” Owen Calvert-Lyons, Head of Theatre and Artist Development, Ovalhouse
“A highly entertaining collection of performances, shining a light on the links between the British Colonialism and time. I hadn’t realised until watching this just how steeped in colonial thought our everyday lives are. It was delightfully queer and delivered the theme in a hugely entertaining way – each act conjuring striking images. I would love to see more – these are stories that must be told.” Amie Taylor Editor LGBTQ Arts Review
“Much joy in ClerkinWorks R&D, featuring many of my favourite things: Drag Kings + music hall + well-rehearsed random dance + politics + inclusivity + Angela Clerkin being hilarious. And I learnt stuff. Bring on the finished product.” Lucy Cuthbertson Head of Learning, Shakespeare’s Globe
The Players: Adedamola Bajomo, Cassandra Hercules, Deni Francis, Hazel Maycock, Leah Kirby, Lucy Jane Parkinson & Serin Ibrahim
Director: Angela Clerkin
Producer: Jennifer Lunn
Designer: Mallin Parry
Movement Director: Jeanefer Jean-Charles
Music Director: Chris Goode
Company Manager/Researcher: Sarah Grange
Mentoring Support: Lee Simpson
Humanette maker: Nina Patel-Grainger
Historical Consultants: Sarah Waters & David Rooney
Thanks to: James Haddrell and Greenwich Theatre, Owen Calvert-Lyons and Ovalhouse, Caroline Partridge, Pauline Mayers, Arts Council England, Chris Goode & Co, Improbable, Fiona Keating, Arts Admin.
For further information about the project and our future plans please contact:
- Angela and Adae Bajomo will develop an original central narrative about a black Victorian Male Impersonator.
- R&D with ensemble to create individual and group acts that develops the new narrative which will thread through the piece.
- We are currently looking for co-producing venues.
SOME WORDS FROM THE ENSEMBLE ON THE PROCESS:
“From the beginning, I was aware that this space could be made for all the parts of who I am.” Adedamola Bajomo, ensemble
“The diversity of the group – not just in terms of ethnicity – but also age really made a special environment for us to work in.” Lucy Jane Parkinson, ensemble
“This process really opened up the breadth of resources to explore queer history, PoC in the Victorian era and identify where I can find place for my representation within British history.” Leah Kirby, ensemble
“I was amazed by how much complex and difficult material was able to be explored and discussed mindfully as well as productively within such a short R&D period. An inspirational project to be part of.” Mallin Parry, designer.
GMT was originally set up to aid naval navigation in the 15th century. By 1815 the British Royal Navy was the largest, most powerful navy in the world. The British Empire had secured the sea lanes to the UK’s overseas colonies in North America, India and Africa. In the late 19th century, 72% of the world’s commerce depended on sea-charts which used Greenwich as the Prime Meridian.
1880 GMT became Britain’s legal standard time.
In 1884 GMT was adopted universally at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, DC, USA. Putting Britain in the centre of the world map.
1890-1940 Ruth Belville sold time to small businesses around London using her pocket watch/chronometer set at Greenwich Observatory weekly. The watch was called Arnold, after John Arnold, the watchmaker. Arnold is currently an exhibit at the Science Museum.