Saturday, July 31, 2010

In the wind

Sarah O'Brien (right) arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday. Sarah had a vision to bring a musical she wrote about Cambodia, Winds of Angkor, to be performed here and that will happen next Sunday, 8 August at Chaktomuk. It won't be the full musical but will provide enough of a preview to appreciate how important this will be to open up Cambodia for a whole new audience in the theatre world. She is keeping her fingers crossed to be able to hold the world premiere of her musical in Cambodia at the beginning of next year. The following report appeared in the Nottingham Post yesterday, Sarah's home town.

Nottingham composer's play to be shown in Cambodia
A play written by a former Nottingham woman is to be shown at the Cambodian Living Arts Festival. Sarah O'Brien will become the first western composer to take part in the event when Winds of Angkor features at the festival on Sunday, August 8. David Mace, the British Ambassador to the South East Asian country, will attend. "It is a real honour to be asked to take part in this wonderful event," said Sarah, 41, who used to live in Wollaton before moving to America. "As a composer you hope to be asked to take part in these events. When I was asked, I jumped at the chance."

Sarah, who is also a cellist, wrote the show herself. It is set in Cambodia and chronicles the life of a western journalist who falls in love with a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime which committed genocide in the country under the rule of its leader, Pol Pot. The play will be shown at the Chatomuk Theatre in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. "I will be heading over there feeling very excited," added Sarah, a former Fernwood Comprehensive School and Bilborough College student. "I hope it will go down well and we can maybe begin to tour with the show in the future. It would be great if I could bring the show to the UK as that is where my roots are."

Sarah has been writing music since she was about ten. After finishing school, she went to London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to do Advanced Studies at the University of Southern California. She was selected to take part in concerts at the Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City. After graduating, she worked in Hollywood, being credited in a number of TV shows, film soundtracks and albums. [Her credits include Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Jag as well as with ELO, Yanni, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Ozzie Osbourne]. Sarah is now based in Los Angeles but returns to the UK every summer to coach young cellists at the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain, of which she is a former member.

She dreamed up the Winds of Angkor after reading fragments of letters written by Cambodian prisoners in the 1990s. She researched it by visiting the country several times and meeting some of the survivors. "There were a lot of terrible stories which I heard about and I wanted to write the play on it to display these," she added. "We are having to put a lot of things in place for the trip to Cambodia. I believe a lot of the equipment is being brought in from Singapore." Funds made from the show will go towards future development in Cambodia.

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