Skip to main content

The Spirit Level or The Strange Case of Agatha Banks

Dr Rick Chew (music); Rufus Noris (libretto); Director of the National Theatre, London
City of Ballarat

This production was created especially for Ballarat Heritage Weekend 2017. The new music theatre work was written by Dr Rick Chew and English Librettist, Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, London. Originally commissioned by English National Opera, students from the Arts Academy’s renowned music theatre program were the first to present the work in Australia.

The Spirit Level is an opera in one act and 13 scenes. It tells the story of Agatha Banks, a Victorian woman, a wife and mother, who is committed to a mental asylum by her husband William when he discovers that she has been taking part in covert spiritualist meetings with her female friends.

The piece was commissioned by English National Opera, for their youth company The Knack. It bucks the trend of many 19th century period dramas in that there are 21 women in the cast and only three men. The Spirit Level is by turns surreal, comic and deadly serious.

The Spirit Level is based loosely on the case of Louisa Lowe, who appeared before a Parliamentary select committee in 1887, claiming that she had been wrongfully incarcerated in a lunatic asylum by her husband, for being a spiritualist.

Read more about Ballarat Heritage Weekend