Time Capsule

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Learning@TheGrange will be presenting an exciting, challenging Youth Project Time Capsule at The Grange this August.  


A group of 80 young people (aged 12-18 years) will work with a dynamic professional creative team to devise, create, rehearse and perform a contemporary operatic piece in just 5 days. 


Based on the theme Time Capsule, the young people will debate ‘what items we are most and least proud of man’s creations’.   


This promises to be an exhilarating, fast moving five days with the young people taking creative ownership of the project.  

Production Team
See bio

Karen Gillingham


See bio

Dominic Harlan

Musical Director

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Natasha Khamjani


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Ruth Paton


Karen Gillingham is a freelance opera director, facilitator and creative director of Garsington Opera Learning & Participation.

She has recently directed A Trip to the Moon at LSO Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Silver Birch at Garsington Opera, Beautiful World at the National Theatre, Abu Dhabi and Hospital Passion Play at London’s V&A.  Karen trained as a director and performer at both Manchester Metropolitan University & on The Knack at English National Opera.

Karen was co-artistic director of the Royal Opera House’s Youth Opera Company for nine years and has worked with all the major UK opera companies on productions ranging from The Magic Flute for Garsington Opera at West Green House and Twenty Women Singing a tour of women’s prisons with Welsh National Opera as well as large scale community operas such as South of the River with English National Opera and Beached with Opera North.

Recent productions include Magna Carta – The Freedom Game (a community opera for Surrey Arts at the Royal Albert Hall, Out of the ruins (Royal Opera House – A Gala Celebration); The Crackle (as associate director -Royal Opera House) and director of Worldskills opening ceremony at O2 London

Dominic Harlan is a pianist, performer, workshop leader, presenter and composer. Through his workshops, recitals and presentations, he has introduced countless people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to the worlds of opera, music-theatre, concert performances and composition.

Ruth enjoys long term relationships with several companies and directors including George Peck at the Oxford School of Drama, the Learning Department at the Royal Opera House, Tim Yealland at English Touring Opera and Mark Down at Blind Summit where she is an Associate Artist.

She is currently working with Thomas Guthrie on their 4th production together, returning to Longborough Festival Opera to design The Flying Dutchman after their acclaimed Magic Flute at last year’s festival.

She continues to work with Blind Summit, creating adult, puppet-based theatre including recent commissions from the Spoleto, Bregenz and Edinburgh festivals.

Ruth’s connection to and love of music has led to designing many operas and music productions for companies such as the City of London Sinfonia/ The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Festival Hall, Surrey Opera and Stanley Hall Opera.

A flair for facilitating creative projects with people of all ages and abilities has brought engagements with the country’s leading opera houses and cultural organisations. These include the ROH, ENO, Opera North, Punch Drunk, Garsington, Hackney Music Development Trust, the National Trust, BAC and the BFI. Designs in this field have ranged from full- scale newly commissioned plays and operas for young people (The Royal National Theatre, Glyndebourne Opera, English Touring Opera, Southwark Playhouse) to community operas with huge casts on vast stages (The Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Opera North).

Formal teaching includes projects for Wimbledon School of Art, Northbrook Art School and Durham University as well as CPD teacher training workshops at Opera North, The Royal Opera House and BAC. She instigated and led the workshop programme for Stanley Hall Opera from 2005-2015.

After studying Drama at Hull University Ruth trained on the Motley Theatre Design Course under Percy Harris and Alison Chitty who she later assisted. 

Time Capsule – the questions

You are embarking on a journey into the unknown as a passenger in Elon Musk/Space-X’s Dragon transporter.


First, you are going to create a time capsule to leave on Mars and need to choose 5 things that mark the best of man’s greatest achievements on earth, things that you could not do without. What things would you take?


Second, you have an opportunity to pass close to a black hole discovered last year by Stephen Hawking. As you pass, you can throw into the black hole 5 things you hate about the world, without which the world would be a better place. What things would you select to be permanently destroyed?