Shackleton's Cat

A new opera in Spring 2015 for primary schools and families, based on the famous story of Antarctic survival a century ago.

Composer 
Russell Hepplewhite
Director & Libretto 
Tim Yealland
Designer 
Jude Munden

A compelling and accurate hour-long distillation of perhaps the greatest battle for survival of modern times.

★★★★ The Times

An outstanding piece, which will remain etched in the memories of all the children lucky enough to see it.

★★★★★ Opera Now

Shackleton’s Cat is the latest in ETO’s award-winning strand of operas for young people. The new opera features nine performers, including singers and players, and tells the story of the voyage and destruction of the Endurance 100 years ago, and the subsequent tale of survival against all odds. The opera features an ingenious set, with maps and images from the expedition, interactive songs, a puppet cat, and comprehensive resources for teachers, compiled in partnership with the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. Curriculum topics include music, drama, geography, science, literacy and maths.

Excellent! You had our students hooked from the beginning. I have never heard them applaud so long and so loudly as they did at the end of your performance! [You provided] A very good pack that is suitable for all levels of achievement and gives excellent ideas for follow-up work. My students are now embarking on Shackleton’s voyage with him and writing diaries on the way. They can now use the ideas from the opera, along with drama in class, photographs and props to make this work more meaningful. Indeed the students themselves are excited about the work too! Thank you for such an outstanding performance.

Maryon Shaddock, teacher, Woodside School, Belvedere, Kent

The story itself begins in 2015, when scientists measuring the alarming changes in the levels of the polar sea-ice make an astonishing discovery: the bones of a cat. They belong to Mrs Chippy, the carpenter’s cat on the Endurance, and best friend to the young Welsh stowaway Perce Blackborow. At the heart of the opera is Shackleton himself, perhaps the greatest expedition leader of all time. The opera follows the crew as they set sail from Buenos Aires to the incredible rescue after months of hardship.

The opera lasts just over an hour and is created for children aged 7-11 and their families. Two months ahead of ETO’s visit schools are sent a CD and sheet music of three songs the children join in with, as well as a comprehensive teacher’s pack, which includes information about the piece and the story, and its curriculum links. The pack contains activities for classes.

Shackleton’s Cat is created by composer Russell Hepplewhite and director Tim Yealland and is designed by Jude Munden – the team behind ETO’s recent children’s operas Laika the Spacedog and Borka.

We visit schools, libraries and small theatre venues, so if you’d like to book a performance, please contact talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk or call 020 7833 2555.

Showing At

  1. Woodside School, Belvedere
    5th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  2. Queensbridge and de Beauvoir Schools, London
    9th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  3. Bosvigo School, Truro
    17th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  4. Constantine School, Truro
    18th Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  5. Baden Powell & St Peters CE Junior School, Poole
    20th Mar 2015 - 10:00 am
  6. Poole Central Library
    21st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  7. Stibbard All Saints Primary School
    24th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm
  8. Martham Primary School, Great Yarmouth
    25th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm
  9. Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton
    27th Mar 2015 - 10:45 am
  10. Riverside Library Heritage and Arts, Rotherham
    31st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  11. East Park Primary School, Wolverhampton
    14th Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm
  12. Southwold Primary School
    17th Apr 2015 - 10:15 am
  13. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings
    18th Apr 2015 - 3:00 pm
  14. Braunstone Frith Primary School, Leicester
    21st Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm
  15. Sydenham Primary School, Leamington Spa
    23rd Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm
  16. Warwick Arts Centre
    25th Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm
  17. Barley Lane School, Exeter
    29th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am
  18. Ladysmith Nursery and Infant School, Exeter
    30th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am
  19. Newton Poppleford Primary School, Devon
    1st May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  20. Dulwich College
    5th May 2015 - 11:15 am
  21. Dulwich College
    5th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  22. Dulwich College
    7th May 2015 - 11:15 am
  23. Dulwich College
    7th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  24. The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
    8th May 2015 - 10:30 am
  25. Strood Library, Rochester
    9th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  26. Boundary Primary School, Blackpool
    12th May 2015 - 9:45 am
  27. Anchorsholme Primary Academy, Blackpool
    12th May 2015 - 1:45 pm
  28. Marton Primary School, Blackpool
    13th May 2015 - 10:15 am
  29. Burbage Primary School, Buxton
    15th May 2015 - 12:00 pm
  30. Harton Primary School, South Shields
    19th May 2015 - 11:00 am
  31. Oakbank Primary School, Perth
    21st May 2015 - 11:00 am
  32. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    29th May 2015 - 2:00 pm
  33. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    30th May 2015 - 11:30 am
  34. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    30th May 2015 - 2:00 pm
  1. Woodside School, Belvedere — 5th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am

    Halt Robin Road, Belvedere, DA17 6DW

  2. Queensbridge and de Beauvoir Schools, London — 9th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am

    80 Tottenham Road, London, N1 4BS

  3. Bosvigo School, Truro — 17th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am

    Chapel Hill, Truro, TR1 3BJ

  4. Constantine School, Truro — 18th Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Trebarvah Road, Constantine, TR11 5AG

  5. Baden Powell & St Peters CE Junior School, Poole — 20th Mar 2015 - 10:00 am

    Mill Lane, Poole, BH14 8UL

  6. Poole Central Library — 21st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Kingland Road, Poole, BH15 1QE

  7. Stibbard All Saints Primary School — 24th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Fulmodeston Road, Stibbard, Fakenham, NR21 0LT

  8. Martham Primary School, Great Yarmouth — 25th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Black Street, Martham, Great Yarmouth, NR29 4PR

  9. Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton — 27th Mar 2015 - 10:45 am

    4 Embercourt Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0LQ

  10. Riverside Library Heritage and Arts, Rotherham — 31st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Main Street, Rotherham, S60 1AE

  11. East Park Primary School, Wolverhampton — 14th Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Hollington Road, Wolverhampton, WV1 2DS

  12. Southwold Primary School — 17th Apr 2015 - 10:15 am

    Cumberland Road, Southwold, Suffolk, IP18 6JP

  13. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings — 18th Apr 2015 - 3:00 pm

    IP17 1SP

  14. Braunstone Frith Primary School, Leicester — 21st Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Liberty Road, Leicester, LE3 6NN

  15. Sydenham Primary School, Leamington Spa — 23rd Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Sydenham, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV31 1SA

  16. Warwick Arts Centre — 25th Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm

    University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL

  17. Barley Lane School, Exeter — 29th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am

    Exeter, EX4 1TA

  18. Ladysmith Nursery and Infant School, Exeter — 30th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am

    Ladysmith Road, Exeter, EX1 2PS

  19. Newton Poppleford Primary School, Devon — 1st May 2015 - 1:30 pm

    School Lane, Newton Poppleford, Sidmouth, EX10 0EL

  20. Dulwich College — 5th May 2015 - 11:15 am

    Dulwich Common, London, SE21 7LD

  21. Dulwich College — 5th May 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Dulwich Common, London, SE21 7LD

  22. Dulwich College — 7th May 2015 - 11:15 am

    Dulwich Common, London, SE21 7LD

  23. Dulwich College — 7th May 2015 - 1:30 pm

    Dulwich Common, London, SE21 7LD

  24. The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury — 8th May 2015 - 10:30 am

    The Friars, Canterbury, CT1 2AS

  25. Strood Library, Rochester — 9th May 2015 - 1:30 pm

    32 Bryant Road, Strood, Rochester, ME2 3EP

  26. Boundary Primary School, Blackpool — 12th May 2015 - 9:45 am

    Dinmore Avenue, Blackpool, FY3 7RW

  27. Anchorsholme Primary Academy, Blackpool — 12th May 2015 - 1:45 pm

    Eastpines Drive, Blackpool, FY5 3RX

  28. Marton Primary School, Blackpool — 13th May 2015 - 10:15 am

    Whernside, Off Highfield Road, Marton, Blackpool, FY4 5LY

  29. Burbage Primary School, Buxton — 15th May 2015 - 12:00 pm

    Cavendish Avenue, Buxton, SK17 9AE

  30. Harton Primary School, South Shields — 19th May 2015 - 11:00 am

    East Avenue, South Shields, NE34 6PF

  31. Oakbank Primary School, Perth — 21st May 2015 - 11:00 am

    Viewlands Road West, Perth, PH1 1NA

  32. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge — 29th May 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1ER

    • Sold Out

  33. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge — 30th May 2015 - 11:30 am

    Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1ER

    • Sold Out

  34. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge — 30th May 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1ER

    • Sold Out

Russell Hepplewhite

Russell Hepplewhite

Composer

Russell Hepplewhite studied piano and composition at Chetham’s School of Music and was subsequently awarded a scholarship to study at the RCM. His compositions are regularly performed in venues across Britain and abroad, and recently the acclaimed Svyati Duo included his pieces for cello and organ on their CD release. He places much importance on composing for education and the community, and over several years has composed large-scale pieces for ETO, the Rambert Dance Company and Sheffield Theatres among many others. He teaches composition and musicianship at the RCM Junior Department, and examines for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Tim Yealland

Tim Yealland

Director & Libretto

Tim read English at Cambridge, then studied singing at the Guildhall and the Munich Hochschule . His performing career included roles in opera and theatre, including work for Opera Factory, Opera 80, ENO, ROH, Opera North and Chichester Festival. His passion for education has led him to devise and direct projects for all the main opera companies, and many others here and abroad. He has led the education work at ETO since 2003, bringing a particular commitment to integrating special and mainstream schools. He has created 3 community operas for ETO: One Breath (Sheffield), A House on the Moon (Wolverhampton) and One Day Two Dawns (Cornwall). He has also written the libretti for several operas for young people, including Voithia and In the Belly of the Horse.

Jude Munden

Jude Munden

Designer

Jude Munden worked as a secondary school art teacher before becoming a self employed maker and designer specialising in costume, props and puppets. She works from a workshop on a barge on the Penryn river, which she shares with her husband Alan who is a set designer and furniture maker. Jude has made and designed work for Miracle Theatre Company, Shallal Dance Company, Trifle Gathering, Cube Theatre, Wild West Film, Bedrock Films as well as ETO. She also makes models and other random objects for public institutions such as the Eden Project. Jude lives in Falmouth with her husband and three children.

Cast

Matt R J Ward

Matt R J Ward

Harry McNish

Matt is a recent graduate of RCM, where he studied with Justin Lavender supported by the RCM Yvonne Wells Award. Roles at RCM include Arnalta in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Frick in La Vie Parisienne, Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro and Messenger in The Life to Come (libretto and direction by Stephen Fry). Other roles include Mercury in Orpheus in the Underworld, Nanki-Poo (cover) in The Mikado, The Rector (cover) in Peter Grimes (West Australian Opera Company), Laurie in Little Women, Le Chevalier in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (West Australian Academy of Performing Arts). www.mattrjward.com

Andrew Glover

Andrew Glover

Harry McNish

Andrew was born in New Zealand and graduated the Australian Opera Studio with Honours and the Dux award for excellence.

Recent appearances have included Tinca, Il tabarro, Gherardo, Gianni Schicchi and cover Bunce, Fantastic Mr Fox (all ETO); Bardolfo, Falstaff, Abdallo, Nabucco (both IFAC Tokyo); Tito, La clemenza di Tito, Msr Triquet, Eugene Onegin (both New Zealand Opera); Remendado, Carmen, Un Voce, La Gioconda (both Opera Holland Park); Don Basilio, Le nozze di Figaro (Vignette Productions).

He has appeared in numerous concerts and recitals with ensembles including the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Perth Orchestra, the Australian Opera Studio, the NBR NZ Opera Company.

Future engagements include Vašek, The Bartered Bride.

Dominic Walsh

Dominic Walsh

Frank Wild

Michael Butchard

Michael Butchard

Frank Wild

Gareth Brynmor John

Gareth Brynmor John

Ernest Shackleton

Ashley Mercer

Ashley Mercer

Ernest Shackleton

Ashley’s interest in singing began at school where he was a member of the chapel choir and performed in productions of Bugsy Malone and Guys and Dolls (the latter as Nicely-nicely Johnson – his first, and last, appearance as a tenor!) and he went on to join the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, performing and recording across the UK. On arriving at King’s College London to study physics, he found a natural home in the chapel choir under David Trendell, with whom he recorded for Gaudeamus and broadcast on BBC Radio 3; and also as a performer, director and conductor of Gilbert & Sullivan and musical theatre. A brief stint in the City followed before he decided to return to study singing formally, and he recently graduated with distinction from the Masters programme at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where he was a TCM Trust Scholar and a Kathleen Roberts scholar, and was awarded the Paul Simm Opera Prize. He was a Christine Collins Young Artist for Opera Holland Park and recently made his main stage debut for Wexford Festival Opera.

Recent and future opera engagements include Badger and Parson (The Cunning Little Vixen) for British Youth Opera; Ernest Shackleton (Shackleton’s Cat), and covering both Colline and Alcindoro (La bohème) for English Touring Opera; German Soldier (Silent Night, European premiere) and Usher (Trial by Jury) for Wexford Festival Opera; Publio (La clemenza di Tito) for Midsummer Opera; Jupiter (Orpheus in the Underworld) for Trinity Laban; Dr Craven (McNeff’s The Secret Garden) for Trinty Laban and The Banff Centre, Canada.

Jan Capinski

Jan Capinski

Frank Worsley

Jamie Rock

Jamie Rock

Frank Worsley

Dafydd Hall Williams

Dafydd Hall Williams

Perce Blackborow

Mrs Chippy

Mrs Chippy

A compelling and accurate hour-long distillation of perhaps the greatest battle for survival of modern times … Russell Hepplewhite’s music is not only atmospheric, but also incorporates three songs for the audience of 7-to-11-year-olds to join in with. I was as gripped as they clearly were.

★★★★ The Times

English Touring Opera did the near impossible by getting a bunch of seven- to 10-year-olds from various south London schools to watch a new opera by Russell Hepplewhite about Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic… Deftly done with highest musical standards.

Observer

A rattling good piece of music theatre.

★★★★ Robert Hugill

Opera — an elitist art form? You must be joking. This was real opera presented to children from three South London primary schools. The fact that the ETO takes on such educational projects gives hope to the young people and the Art scene in this country.

Mark Ronan

I thought the music was very dramatic and heartbreaking. Some of the music made me scared as if I was on the stormy sea to South Georgia. Some of it made me feel very sad, especially when Mrs Chippy was shot and died. I found this moment particularly moving. I would recommend people to see this opera because it is great and a very dramatic story and gives you a taste of great adventures. And although the singing is very loud it is awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

Theo, aged 9

Some students at Woodside School wrote diaries as members of the Endurance crew:

“Today is the day we leave Elephant Island, but some of the crew are in too much pain to come with us. It is sad leaving the others behind. But we will come back for them. I don’t know if we will make it. We will try our hardest. We are all scared but all we can do is hope for the best. We are all tired and hurting. We have to sleep in a small space on the boat. It is not nice. It smells and we get wet because of the boat tipping and water comes in. We all miss our family and friends. The waves are big and strong. We have to take turns looking after the boat. That really aches your arms. It is really hard and you are cold. It is not nice but we do it because we have to do it. We have to be careful because something might go wrong. We get hungry all the time. We miss all the food we had when we was at home.”

“We have been stuck here for a year now, I’m worried we might not get home and we might freeze to death. We had to kill the dogs and Mrs Chippy the cat to eat them to survive. This made me upset. Shackleton wanted to get us home, but I don’t trust him and I don’t like him. I hope we get home safe.”

Showing At

  1. Woodside School, Belvedere
    5th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  2. Queensbridge and de Beauvoir Schools, London
    9th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  3. Bosvigo School, Truro
    17th Mar 2015 - 11:00 am
  4. Constantine School, Truro
    18th Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  5. Baden Powell & St Peters CE Junior School, Poole
    20th Mar 2015 - 10:00 am
  6. Poole Central Library
    21st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  7. Stibbard All Saints Primary School
    24th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm
  8. Martham Primary School, Great Yarmouth
    25th Mar 2015 - 1:30 pm
  9. Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton
    27th Mar 2015 - 10:45 am
  10. Riverside Library Heritage and Arts, Rotherham
    31st Mar 2015 - 2:00 pm
  11. East Park Primary School, Wolverhampton
    14th Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm
  12. Southwold Primary School
    17th Apr 2015 - 10:15 am
  13. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings
    18th Apr 2015 - 3:00 pm
  14. Braunstone Frith Primary School, Leicester
    21st Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm
  15. Sydenham Primary School, Leamington Spa
    23rd Apr 2015 - 1:30 pm
  16. Warwick Arts Centre
    25th Apr 2015 - 2:00 pm
  17. Barley Lane School, Exeter
    29th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am
  18. Ladysmith Nursery and Infant School, Exeter
    30th Apr 2015 - 12:00 am
  19. Newton Poppleford Primary School, Devon
    1st May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  20. Dulwich College
    5th May 2015 - 11:15 am
  21. Dulwich College
    5th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  22. Dulwich College
    7th May 2015 - 11:15 am
  23. Dulwich College
    7th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  24. The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
    8th May 2015 - 10:30 am
  25. Strood Library, Rochester
    9th May 2015 - 1:30 pm
  26. Boundary Primary School, Blackpool
    12th May 2015 - 9:45 am
  27. Anchorsholme Primary Academy, Blackpool
    12th May 2015 - 1:45 pm
  28. Marton Primary School, Blackpool
    13th May 2015 - 10:15 am
  29. Burbage Primary School, Buxton
    15th May 2015 - 12:00 pm
  30. Harton Primary School, South Shields
    19th May 2015 - 11:00 am
  31. Oakbank Primary School, Perth
    21st May 2015 - 11:00 am
  32. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    29th May 2015 - 2:00 pm
  33. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    30th May 2015 - 11:30 am
  34. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
    30th May 2015 - 2:00 pm

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