Hyperdub’s Klein on scoring a fantasy musical inspired by Disney princesses
Care is an upcoming fantasy musical set in a London care home that Hyperdub artist Klein hopes will inspire other young women to aim more for leading roles.
Following a stellar 2017, Hyperdub artist Klein has written the score to a fantasy musical that allows her to indulge her unabashed love of Disney films. Care, which opens at London’s ICA next month, nods to “classic themes” from fairytale-inspired blockbusters like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, capturing those “moments when there are turning points with mystical queens that give you a mission,” she says.
Centered around a group of young people living in a London care home, the musical offers some social commentary about the realities of being in the care system, while also doubling up as a kind of underground club biopic, making reference to the real lives and aspirations of producers like Manara and Sweyn Jupiter, who both have roles in the musical. FACT caught up with Klein to get the lowdown on what to expect from Care when it opens on February 3.
How did the project come about?
I made a song a while ago that sounded a bit like the tree lady scene in Pocahontas and I just didn’t know what to do with it! I was watching loads of Disney films around that time and thought “this would be cool for something like that” but wasn’t really sure. Richard from the ICA had seen this dance piece I’d produced at the Southbank Centre last year and asked me to do something… A week later I’d had the idea to make a Disney-inspired live action [show], something I’d always kind of wanted to do, if I’m honest.
Without giving away any surprises, what’s the gist of the story?
The musical is set in a care home, but it’s kind of loosely done in the same framework as The Story of Tracy Beaker. I build on that idea by following this group of young people who end up in a fantasy world through a series of events. I play the older sister of a younger girl and they both ended up in the care home because their mum abandoned them. The whole thing is about how the younger sister just wants to get her mum back and we have an argument about it, which leads to us ending up in this magical world. I took loads of classic themes from Disney Films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, moments when there are turning points with mystical queens that give you a mission. I took those elements and placed them within this musical but it’s still very youthful and London.
Can you describe the fantasy world?
It’s essentially like Narnia. Through a series of events we end up in this fantasy world, which we like for a bit, but after a while it all starts to get scary. A lot of haunted things from our past turn up and it becomes a nightmare.
Have you had any personal experience of care homes?
I’ve had a few friends who have been in care homes but writing the musical was more a way to explore the UK’s social welfare system in a light-hearted way. I thought this would be an interesting way to shine a light on how kids are treated and the reality of what it’s like to be in a care home. In the story, the only way these kids can be happy is if they end up in a magical world. These kids are in a bad situation, but I don’t think even they themselves realize they’re in a bad situation until certain scenarios happen in the musical. It’s sad, but it’s also an optimistic and cheery musical.
How did you cast the actors?
I’ve always been interested in Disney films so I used this as an excuse to place my friends, or people I just really look up to – Manara, Radar’s BBC AZN Network – in a production that they wouldn’t necessarily be cast in. It’s the acting debut for a lot of these cast members and there are elements in the musical where it references their current careers. There’s a scene in the care home, for example, where Manara talks about wanting to become a DJ. I think Sweyn J had acted before, but it’s his first time doing a stage production. I thought it would be cool for Lord Tusk to play the foster home supervisor. The little girl who plays my sister was in my music video, so yeah, it’s all connected. I wanted a diverse cast but also it was an excuse for me and my friends to play Disney princesses because what are the chances of us ever being cast in the lead role as a black girl or a Pakistani girl… So we acted the lead role as we existed as ourselves. It sounds cheesy, but we wanted other young girls to see us and think: ‘I can be a Disney princess too.’
What’s the soundtrack like?
The first half is chilled… very south London with cyphers and MCs. The second half, I’m not gonna lie, is very dramatic and Disney. I made the songs around the same time I was making my Tommy EP, and some of the tracks just sounded like they were made for kids! Lots of strings, butterfly sounds, harmonies. There’s some live a cappella stuff. We start our full-on rehearsals soon and that will bring with it new cappella stuff too.
How did writing a musical differ from your regular writing process?
I feel like it was still very internal. The minute I started writing it, I knew what kind of direction it was headed in. There wasn’t some sort of crazy agenda where I thought ‘I should have these essays in it’ etc. It’s set in a care home and it’s about what happens after dark. It was one of those things that when you start writing it, you think ‘I’m surprised no one’s done this before’. Everything is dark and dreamlike, whereas when I write for my own personal music, it stems from real-life experiences. With this musical, anything goes and I was able to go really out there, poke fun at the characters. Some of them are playing exaggerated versions of themselves.
I’m so used to doing things in dingy, dark clubs so it’s been a refreshing chance for me to do this musical! I don’t just make music intended for clubs and I also really wanted to do something that’s more accessible for people of different ages and different backgrounds. This felt like the perfect opportunity.
Care plays at London’s ICA from February 3-4. Grab tickets from the ICA website.