Category Archives: Projects

Truth and Transformation

We’ve been listening recently to Dame Hilary Mantel‘s fascinating Reith Lectures about the process and philosophy of writing historical fiction. As well as talking with great insight about the writing process itself, she touches on the business of adapting other peoples’ material – in her case, their actual, historical lives. What is the relationship between historical accuracy and novelistic creativity? Is the spirit more important than the letter? These issues are still pertinent when the starting-place is an existing work of fiction, although with different implications when handling source material and characters.

Mantel also touches on something common to all fictional processes where personalities are involved – the autonomy of the characters themselves. There comes a point reported by many writers where the characters – real or created – become so present that the author almost feels the character are actively leading the way. This is something that Di Sherlock, the librettist of The Ubiquitous Woman, has talked about. If and when it happens, she says, it’s always much better to go with it than to resist.

So it has been with our work on The Ubiquitous Woman, which has continued to develop since our first workshop in November 2016. We have received significant critical feedback from our peers within the theatre and opera industry, which has shaped our pathway for the next phase of development. But in the end, the direction suggested by the characters themselves in response to their developing storyline is as strong a factor as anything else.

One always has to begin somewhere and we began quite close to the short story that inspired us. This was not only a way of examining its themes but helped us to tease out what fresh insights we wanted to offer about them. As we have extended the reach of those themes into the twenty-first century, it has become clear that we are writing a totally new story with very different characters. The decision to rename our protagonists reflects how far they have moved from their literary inspiration: the centrality of digital and virtual-reality technology to our narrative shows that this story can only be entirely contemporary in its concerns and location.

However, the wry humour and spirit of the original continue to inspire us. Dame Hilary Mantel, must necessarily preserve Thomas Cromwell more-or-less as she finds him in the historical record. We have the good fortune to be able to let our characters run more freely and, if they feel like it, to become different people.



Funding news from Cockayne

New Notes & Noises is delighted to announce that we are in receipt of a significant donation from Cockayne towards the development and performance of The Ubiquitous Woman. This important seed-money from a major player in arts philanthropy will help us to complete the vocal score and move forward towards the production stage of the project.

We would like to express our thanks to Cockayne and to the London Community Foundation for their generous support.

The Ubiquitous Woman excerpts in rehearsal

tuw_music_5novYesterday we started rehearsing the music for the 10 November excerpts showcase of The Ubiquitous Woman. We have to do a great deal of work in a short space of time. A lot of what we do is finding out what works and what doesn’t work, let alone rehearsing that to a performance level! However, we’re having a lot of fun with this sharp comedy.

andie scott designs

Today we have been working with some of the designs that Andie Scott has drawn up and prepared. Above are her working sketches for the characters and below is a photo from rehearsal, showing some of these in the studio. We’re really looking forward to refining this important part of the show for the showcase on Thursday.

the ubiquitous woman rehearsal

The Ubiquitous Woman takes her first steps


Last week we began the exciting process of creating The Ubiquitous Woman. In a day-long workshop we explored the musical language being created by Martin Ward to complement Di Sherlock‘s libretto. In addition to these two key creatives, baritone Damian Thantrey and tenor Michael Peavoy joined us to take the roles of Tony, Sabine’s husband and Theo, her lover. New Notes & Noises was represented by Libby Burgess (piano) and Clare McCaldin (mezzo), who sang Sabine.

Following our day of singing and discussion, Martin and Di have revisions and additional sections to write which will form a 20-minute section to be rehearsed and performed as work-in-progress later this year. The story of The Ubiquitous Woman presents specific technical challenges for both music and production because the narrative hinges on the central character’s ability to clone herself. Further workshop days will include preliminary ideas from our designer Andie Scott demonstrating how this will work.