The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford has a focus on musical education. It stands alongside the singer’s former school, Dartford Grammar School, and Sir Mick funds the Red Rooster Project, providing children’s music tuition at the Centre and in several local schools. On 24 and 25 October last year the Centre hosted the first two performances of Rice Harvest, a new musical produced by Keith Hale and William Dashwood for Parasol Music Productions. Most of the cast members are from the surrounding area and of school age.
Rice Harvest is the fruit of a project that began in 1978 in a recording studio in London, when Vietnamese ‘boat children’ were housed in Kensington Barracks, having just been rescued at sea by a British ship. They were traumatised and invited to the studio, where they sang and made friends. The experience became part of the life’s work of musician and composer Keith Hale, culminating in Rice Harvest – the musical.
This Facebook video is from the performance at the Mick Jagger Centre on 25 October. The producers give particular recognition to the Vietnamese families, especially the children, who have worked hard to make the show a success. Plans are underway to continue the journey of Rice Harvest together.
Keith Hale has a rich history of musical projects, from working with David Bowie on Bromley’s iconic free open-air rock concerts in the 1960s to playing keyboards internationally with Ginger Baker and writing hit records with Toyah Willcox. He writes and arranges children’s musical productions and teaches music in Kent schools.
Rice Harvest is Hale’s collaboration with William Dashwood, for many years a teacher of mime. Dashwood studied with ‘the father of modern mime’, Etienne Decroux, and has performed worldwide, written and produced numerous shows and worked as movement director in children’s television.
Directed by Matthew McDowall, who teaches at both Italia Conti in London and Liz Burville Performing Arts in Bexley, Rice Harvest is a love story in a war zone. It is based on real life events, when as many as 800,000 Vietnamese refugees fled by sea, often in un-seaworthy boats, during the civil struggle that continued after the fall of Saigon and the departure of American forces at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
The cast includes lead actors Emily Tran and Khai Dao, playing teenage classmates in a small village school attacked by soldiers during choir practice. They make a perilous escape by boat, their story one of love, innocence and hope in a world of bitterness, divide and conflict. Saved by the crew of an offshore oil rig, they meet further danger before being picked up by a British ship bound for England. The choir finally reconvenes in a London studio, where they are invited to sing.
The original 1978 Rice Harvest recording is here. The children who appear in it and their story of survival against the odds inspired this musical.
Parasol Music Productions is established with the aim of working with schools and professional musicians and actors to produce and perform modern musical theatre, and to foster an appreciation of music and the performing arts, especially in schools and among young people. Theatres and others who wish to support the project are invited to contact [email protected].