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Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 13:38 UK
Geraldine's a Caribbean theatre queen
Geraldine Connor
Theatre director, ethnomusicologist and performer, Geraldine Connor

The Harder They Come is the latest production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for musical director Geraldine Connor.

Born in Trinidad, Geraldine taught for many years at the University of Leeds, and has many strings to her bow.

Composer, performer, theatre director, ethnomusicologist - Geraldine's an all-rounder.

BBC Leeds talked to her about the strains of working freelance in a precarious business.

Connor first broke through with Carnival Messiah in 1999, a radical theatrical piece underpinned by a creative reworking of Handel's Messiah, mixing it with Caribbean rhythms.

Carnival Messiah
Carnival Messiah - performed in the grounds of Harewood House

That was followed by Yaa Asantewaa, Warrior Queen which utilised the Ghanaian folk tradition together with vibrant dance and then Blues In The Night which created an almost nightclub atmosphere in the theatre for its re-versioning of old blues and jazz classics.

Vodou Nation examined the musical traditions of Haiti and her latest production is a stage version of Perry Henzell's cult 1972 film, The Harder They Come which helped popularise reggae around the world.

The Harder They Come at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

"Many times people try and put a label on what I do but fail. Whatever I'm doing, it's about being creative and artistic. I suppose primarily though, I'm a musician."

"I've become known for musical theatre and some people think that I'm not interested in straight drama, which isn't true but sometimes in this business you have to take the work offered and be grateful that people rate your work."

"There are plenty of actors and directors who struggle to get work, so I'm always happy to be involved in a production and have several possible projects on the backburner waiting to go into production when the last piece of the jigsaw is in the place - the money!!"

"The main thing about my brand of musical theatre is to get away from the West End tradition, and make musicals more relevant as well as being an interactive experience like Blues In The Night, where we had the audience singing and dancing along with the cast."

"It's all about the energy and the transfer of that energy between cast and audience. That gives you a real buzz and suddenly your job doesn't feel like work anymore."

The Harder They Come
The Harder They Come - a vibrant, colourful night out at the theatre

"The other side of that coin is when you're not working - it can be frustrating but you have to have an easygoing attitude or you'll go mad. You have to treat rejection and acceptance in the same way. I'm working on projects to coincide with the 2012 Olympics but nothing's definite till the ink's dry on the contract."

"I suppose the main thing is to enjoy what you do. I used to work with Jimmy Cliff so putting on The Harder They Come is a dream, especially as it's just as relevant today as it was in the early 1970s and having a live band perform the music gives it an edge."

"There's a character in Jamaica at the moment who is, like our character Ivan, Christopher "Dudus" Coke is seen by many as a modern-day Robin Hood outlaw figure and now reggae is a universal music, so 2010 is a perfect time to adapt The Harder They Come. Hopefully we can encourage the music fans to step into a theatre and have a positive experience."

The Harder They Come runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from Tuesday 1 June until Saturday 5 June 2010.



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