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Let me move | Performance Film


Video by Zak Harney, with music by Ben Pearson

Banished feature

The Story

Inspired by the true story of the first female prisoners transported to Australia in the early 19th century, Banished puts the women’s narrative centre stage.

“It has always been a frustration for me that while there is an abundance of female talent (particularly so in conservatories and colleges) there is a noticeable lack of challenging roles available for young women. .. The women are all too often merely passive or victims. They are unable to influence their circumstances and are usually resigned to their fate. Worse still, they are often judged in some way responsible for what happens to them… Redressing this balance and taking advantage of the richness in vocal talent is only one reason to write an opera reflecting the reality of a group of strong women who work things out for themselves.” – Stephen McNeff

With origins in a CoLab project from 2013, the production featured elements of documentary reality, flights of theatrical fantasy and references to folk songs of the time to deliver an impactful drama about surviving adversity.

Since its premiere in 2016, the opera has since been performed across the UK.

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The Creatives

Award-winning composer Stephen McNeff and librettist Olivia Fuchs joined forces to create a new opera for Trinity Laban students, based on the play Female Transport by Steve Gooch.

The world premiere was directed by Elaine Kidd, conducted by Jessica Cottis and featured set and costume design by Louie Whitemore and lighting design by Ben Omerod.

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The Sponsors

Banished was commissioned with supported from the RVW Trust and the Hinrichsen Foundation. Production and design was supported by The Hearn Foundation and Francesca Robinson.

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The Legacy

Reviewing the premiere, Opera Magazine said -“McNeff’s ambitious score certainly merits further outings, as any major company looking for a punchy maritime alternative to Dialogues des Carmélites might find. It’s easy to imagine Banished achieving college repertory status.”

Subsequent productions have included Royal Irish Academy of Music (2019) and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (2022).


With composer Edward Jessen

The Inspiration

Ambitious and experimental, Syllable is a bold piece of contemporary operatic storytelling propelled by sounds rather than through conventional plot.

Inspired by a range of material, including Primo Levi’s 1975 collection of short stories The Periodic Table, it tells the obsessive tale of a carbon particle as it moves from the far-reaches of prehistory into the present.

At a time when we are thinking about our fragile planet and how its resources interrelate, the circular path of a humble atom across the millennia offers a refreshing perspective on our existence and how we coexist with this very particular element, carbon.

Cross-arts Collaboration

British composer and Trinity Laban composition professor Edward Jessen is known for making emotionally direct theatrical works from broad collaborative elements, utilising a background in vocal music and experimental art.

His highly-choreographed drama is a cross between opera, audio book and bedtime story featuring seven principal characters supported by sinfonietta-scale ensemble, auxiliary audio by the composer-performer collective Bastard Assignments, and visual projection by award-winning artist Akhila Krishnan.

Directed by Joseph Alford (Co-Artistic Director, Theatre O), and supported by Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting design, David Sheppard’s sound and Molly Einchcomb’s set, the world premiere (January 2022) was a cross-arts collaborative project between talented student artists and a professional team of industry creatives.

Developed collaboratively over several years, this bold feat of storytelling is no ordinary opera. We’re pleased to be leading the way in pioneering artistic forms, offering our students the chance to collaborate across genres at the forefront of performance and work with an exceptional professional creative team.” – Director of Music Havilland Willshire


Syllable was commissioned by Trinity Laban in partnership with Decipherer Arts Projects, and made possible through the generous support of Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants, PRS for Music Foundation Open Fund for Music Creators, Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and The Gemma Classical Music Trust.

A Sense of Ritual

Review by Planet Hugill

The sound world was as intriguing as the visual.”

Read the full review