Kim Kardashian inspired opera leads Grimeborn bill at the Arcola
PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 July 2017
Inspired by Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage, this take on a Mozart’s comic opera creates a musical hybrid that features classical, electronic, and pop
Kim K and opera?! An unlikely alliance, perhaps, but not for self-described “over-ambitious” graduates Leo Mercer and Stephen Hyde.
The pair have been writing modern musicals since they first formed Leoe&Hyde at Oxford University last year.
The northern duo revamp Mozart’s opera classic, The Marriage of Figaro in their production The Marriage of Kim K as part of the Arcola’s Grimeborn Festival.
Inspired by Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage, this take on a Mozart’s comic opera creates a musical hybrid that features classical, electronic, and pop. Kim’s break-up is just one of three marriages that the audience witnesses disintegrating on stage. Stephen and Amelia, a modern couple, centre the piece when they have an argument about whether to watch Keeping Up in the Kardashians or The Marriage Figaro. Figaro’s story is told in conjunction with Kim K’s, each marriage and world distinctly separate in style and music.
“I love old things, but the cultures that surround them feel a bit like religious fundamentalisms,” says Mercer. “I wanted to show that classical is best outside of its traditional habitat. One way to do that is to change the words and stories of these operas.”
The idea came to him in the audience at a production of West Side Story in 2015, having recently read Kim Kardashian’s Marriage, a book of poems by Sam Riviere – one for each day of her marriage to Kris Humphries. A few weeks previously he had seen an arrangement of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in a cafe.
“The Marriage of Kim K just came into my head. We collaborated the two stories by letting each stand on its own two feet: we tell both stories at once, we have part of the original opera, and part of the Kardashian story, as opposed to try to force one story onto the other. I spend so much of my time multi-tabbing on the internet, going between the way too many windows that I have open – it’s a bit like that, leaping back and forwards between stories, each with their own musical genre.”
Mercer says that the cast is divided on its ‘keeping up’ with the Kardashians. “Emily, who plays the Countess, is an 18th century buff, but Yasemin, who plays Kim, keeps up with the Kardashians obsessively. Most people who come to the show will be familiar with either KUWTK or Mozart operas - I was on the Mozart side.”
The Manchester locals premiered The Marriage of Kim K at Oxford University in 2016. “People loved the production! No one ever knows what to expect - it’s one of those titles like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, or Six Characters in Search of an Author, you start inventing what it might be like before you see it. People have always been surprised and amazed by the way we’ve done it.”
The soundtrack is inspired by various musical genres that include Kanye West, The Beatles and, of course, Mozart. “You have to hear the soundtrack it to believe it. But for now, imagine you’re on Spotify. Someone’s sent you the ultimate genre-bending playlist, you put it on shuffle – one minute you have Marvin Gaye, then Mozart, then Benjamin Clementine. Stephen and I love the feeling of being hurled from one genre to the next!”
“I think Kim K would love the production! There’s got to be some big emotional story behind that 72 day marriage, something she’s never shared. I think she’ll recognise some of the emotions – love, despair, and fear – from the show.”
The production will be making its way to Edinburgh Fringe in August. “Something about the concept of The Marriage of Kim K, its ultra-wackiness, has always made people feel that it belonged there.”
Leo and Hyde are working on their next musical Queueue: A Coffee Shop Musical: “It will be toured around the coolest indie coffee shops around the country. It’s a fully immersive performance - you sit in the coffee-shop whilst the story interrupts you.”
Runs from July 25-29, arcolatheatre.com