Photography: Robert Workman

Laika in Lambeth

A new opera devised in partnership with Reay School, involving five Key Stage 2 classes and over 175 children.

Laika in Lambeth is a new opera written with the children of Reay Primary School, and premiered on the 11th June 2013 in the Grand Hall of Battersea Arts Centre.

Laika was the mongrel stray discovered in Gorky Park in Moscow and sent into space by the Russians in 1957. She was the first animal to orbit the earth, though in reality she was destined not to survive for long. In our new opera we have Laika returning to earth in 2013, and she descends in her capsule like a fireball from space to land in Brockwell Park.

The opera is written in partnership with Reay School, and has been devised over a series of workshops with five Key Stage 2 classes, involving the creation of the design, the words, the story and the music of the piece. Children from St Stephen’s, Wyvil and Vauxhall primary schools are also involved in the project. 175 children will perform in the final production.

We are working also with students from the Royal Academy of Music, and with mezzo soprano Susan Moore, cellist Rebecca Hewes and trombonist Miguel Tantos. Laika herself is played by the puppets (made by Jude Munden) from ETO’s own new opera Laika the Spacedog. The composer for Laika in Lambeth is Russell Hepplewhite, the director is Tim Yealland, the designer is Cathy Ryan, and the producer is Sarah Botchway (also Principal of Reay School).

The funding of this project is made possible by the generosity of

The Peter Minet Trust
Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward
Lambeth Council
Pride Catering
Friends of Reay


The story of Laika in Lambeth begins at the end of the summer term on the local streets. Some of the children have enrolled in the Reay Summer School for Space Cadets, where they learn about the stars and spaceships. They look out of the window at the strange light in the sky. Meanwhile the puppies in the Battersea Home for Dogs and Cats are looking for new owners to take them home, while other children are trying to get to sleep. Amidst all of this Valentina – a dog-hating Russian woman who used to work for the KGB – is trying to get temporary work in the area. At St Thomas’ Hospital the researchers are getting some bizarre data on their computer screens. At 10 Downing Street the Prime Minister’s children are begging him for a dog, but the Prime Minister is busy, and the politicians are making an election speech. The researchers interrupt them with the alarming news that there is a meteor heading for south London.

There is a flash in the night sky and the space cadets go out to look for where the meteor has landed. The children get out of their beds to explore the park where they find a crater in the ground. They find Laika in her capsule. No sooner have they rescued her than the scientists turn up and seal off the area, only for Valentina to kidnap the dog, seeing an opportunity to make a huge amount of money. She decides to hide her in the one place she stupidly assumes no one would think of looking – Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – and travels there via Brixton Market. Missing posters and flyers for Laika go out everywhere. The Prime Minister’s children arrive at the Home and of course they choose Laika out of all the others. No sooner do they get her home than Laika is recognised, sparking a major international incident. Valentina claims her as a Russian, the researchers demand her for scientific purposes, the children who found her want her, the space cadets demand her as a fellow space traveller, and the puppies want her as a dog. It is decided that Laika must make the choice – but who will she choose?

Showing At

  1. Battersea Arts Centre
    11th Jun 2013 - 2:00 pm
  2. Battersea Arts Centre
    11th Jun 2013 - 7:00 pm
  1. Battersea Arts Centre — 11th Jun 2013 - 2:00 pm

    Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN

  2. Battersea Arts Centre — 11th Jun 2013 - 7:00 pm

    Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN

Showing At

  1. Battersea Arts Centre
    11th Jun 2013 - 2:00 pm
  2. Battersea Arts Centre
    11th Jun 2013 - 7:00 pm

Your Comments

  1. Hi. Just back from Laika in Lambeth. Brilliant! Wonderful music and inspired work from the children - ok, proud step-dad moment! Is the opera going to have a lease of life elsewhere? My daughter is at school in Kingston...
    It was brilliant - so good to have it in Britten's centenary year, given his dedication to opera for young people. Thank you.

    Said Simon Gallacher at 21:58pm on 11th Jun 2013

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