Musical inspired by Shoreditch cereal café to open this month
PUBLISHED: 15:09 05 February 2019
“It’s a real collision of light and dark, where subjects so far apart all somehow come together.” After two years of development, producer Jacob Dorrell is about to unveil his new musical: The Cereal Café.
When two brothers from Northern Ireland opened a café serving bowls of cereal on Brick Lane back in December 2014, they can’t have anticipated the reaction that would follow.
The animosity started on December 10, when Channel 4 published a video clip of one of its journalists asking Gary Keery – co-founder of Cereal Killer Café with his twin Alan – about his pricing structure.
“This one was £3.20,” the journalist asks, fresh from polishing off a bowl of Lucky Charms, “and you think that’s affordable for the area considering it’s one of the poorest parts of London?”
Much worse was to come. One Saturday night, late in September 2015, the Café found itself at the sharp end of an anti-gentrification riot which saw customers barricading themselves inside, while protestors threw paint and gouged the word SCUM on the windows.
The events of that night – and how they fit in to a much larger picture – are the focus of a new musical about to premiere at The Other Palace at the end of this month. It’s called The Cereal Café and has been produced by 25-year-old Jacob Dorrell.
“The musical has been in development for two years,” he tells me. “This is a fictional story which uses a lot of artistic license, but it’s based on these real events. It’s a real collision of light and dark, where subjects so far apart all somehow come together.”
Dorrell hails from the West Midlands but has spent a lot of his life in London, and it was during a trip to the capital to visit a friend that inspiration for this project first struck.
“In the autumn of 2016, I was walking down Brick Lane very early on as I wanted to come and see the early-morning market,” he explains, “It must have been a Sunday.”
“I was looking around and saw this beautiful building which was being demolished, it was an old block of flats. There was this whole exposed wall where you could just see sinks hanging off, and it looked like a collage of people’s lives.
“Behind it you could see the city and these huge, glass skyscrapers, and then I turned around to see the Cereal Killer Café and I remembered those stories coming back.
“It seemed like such an incredible story and I started doing endless research about why the riot happened, what’s going on with east London’s housing crisis and the story behind why the Café was created – you see some unusual parallels and they collided in such a way that was so theatrical.”
The Cereal Café’s premiere run is a short one – from February 28 to March 2 – and it will take place at a venue founded by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, designed to find the next generation of musical theatre talent. Tickets are £15 and cereal will be served in the interval – so it’s basically an immersive experience.
Dorrell continues to say: “I don’t like the state of musical theatre in this country – the majority of shows in the West End are completely irrelevant to most people.
“Going to the theatre is an experience, it’s like an investment and so you want to see something entertaining and moving. I feel like there needs to be a show set in the UK, about something which is going on now. Hamilton is hugely popular at the moment – but that’s about American politics several hundred years ago!”
Despite its links to east London, Dorrell says the show’s message is relevant to all corners of the country.
“It’s set in a neighbourhood experiencing rapid re-development, so it addresses issues affecting many inner-city areas around the UK. This is reflected in the show’s sound-world, mixing musical theatre, pop, rock and cinema.”
The Cereal Café is on at The Other Palace, SW1E 5JA between February 28 and March 2. More information is available here.
Creator/Producer - Jacob Dorrell. Book and lyrics by Jacob Dorrell and Tom Ling. Music by Adam Dickinson. The production is directed by Victoria Gimby. Orchestrations by Alistair Robertson and Jack Blume. Musical Supervisor and Arranger - Jack Blume.