The Electrictionary


The Electrictionary confronts progress, pedantry, class, slang and neologisms, in search of the ultimate dictionary with a riotously eclectic score mixing jazz-funk, classical and the avant-garde.

The Electrictionary played in August 2015 as part of the Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival at Kings Place, London. You can watch a film of a performance below. Running time: 64mins.

Creative Team

Music: Alexis Bennett
Words: Timothy Knapman
Directed by Dominic Gerrard
Performed by The Early Music Experiment & Guests!

The Editor: Jimmy Holliday
The Poet: Emily Atkinson
The Slave: Kirby Anne Hall
The Sage: Polly May

Featuring: Claudia Norz, Holly Harman, Ivana Cetkovic, Nichola Joy Blakey, Geoff Irwin, Lucia Capellaro, Emily Baines, Oci Stott, Philippe Barnes, Sarah Gail Brand, Rory Duffy, Rob Wilson, Tom Phelan, Tom Fleming, Daniel Dotor Cespedes, Dave Cottrell, Paul Cassidy, Katie De La Matter and Alex Horne.

The Plot

The Editor awakes from a nightmare about an endless stream of new words. He announces the compilation of the ultimate dictionary, which will set language in stone forever. He declares that anybody who invents a new word, or uses a “prohibited” word, must be punished. The last new word allowed is the name of his project: “The Electrictionary”.

He has a Slave, who provides him with everything he needs.

His first appointment is with The Poet, who despairs at being exiled after criticizing the Editor in her writing. She wonders if her ordeal has all been a terrible dream.

His second appointment is with The Sage, who chooses to flatter The Editor and survive by sycophancy and obedience. The Editor commissions The Sage to make a list of all the words that will be listed in the “Electrictionary”; all other words will be “discontinued”.

The Editor hints at his past. The Slave describes her childhood. The Editor is not feeling very well…

About the Show

The Electrictionary was conceived by the composer as a project that could explore the power of language and the issue of neologisms (new words) through music. Timothy Knapman then developed the idea into a full libretto. The use of various styles of music side-by-side is a deliberate attempt to draw parallels between the deep history of words and the similarly complex origins of the multitude of musical styles that surround us every day. The orchestra features jazz musicians alongside baroque specialists.