Clocks 1888: The Greener Hackney Empire
Ed Sunman

Clocks 1888: The Greener

Reviewer's Rating

The clock runs the East End…n’ I run the clock.

Well-known for combining stunning stage design, animation and the digital arts in theatre production, the Brolly team has put its diverse talents together to create an epic new opera at the extraordinarily atmospheric Hackney Empire. The show is indeed visually stunning, re-creating the complex world and mechanism of the clock through intricate animated drawings, film projections and ingenuous stage design. With the addition of mesmerizing music, originally composed by Martin Ward and beautifully performed, the show feels heartfelt and passionate, touching our senses and emotions.

The opera is set in 1888 and tells the story of the Greener, an uneducated, but fantastically clever young migrant teenage girl who has been running the towering clock of the East End since a child. Not only the beating heart of the then industrial and working-class neighbourhood, it is also its exploitative tool, as it is being run increasingly faster so that the local workers, supervised by Dickensian-type opportunist Coster, work harder. The well-defined characters in the opera give the audience an opportunity to get deeply involved in the development of the story, but also to learn about the historical and social context of the late-Victorian era. The character of Ma in particular, who looks after the Greener, is an elderly Asian woman who in her youth has fought for Indian Independence from British colonialism.

When the Greener is discovered by a gentleman explorer and researcher on the social and working conditions in the East End, she is taken away from her isolation, but also confronted to a world she does not know yet, a world of a different social class, cultural background, and gender politics. Her sharing of the mapping of the trajectory of the planets with the Author is one of the examples in the show where beauty and emotions lead the audience to new horizons and appreciate the power of love. However, when the Greener and the Author are forced to make a decision, what will they choose: the worlds they know, or each other?