The Steampunk Opium Wars

A musical extravaganza written by Anna Chen
Debuts at the Royal National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 16th February 2012
After Kipling: Apology for the First Opium War by John Constable AKA John Crow
The Case For Free Trade by Paul Anderson
The Royal War Decree by Louise Whittle
The Case Against The First Opium War by John Paul O'Neill

BOOK and LYRICS by Anna Chen
MUSIC by Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray with Marc Jefferies

The Steampunk Opium Wars pages:
Cast: Portraits and Poems
The Company: who we are and how to find us.
Gallery: debut performance at the National Maritime Museum.
VIDEO: Lin Zexu Just Says No!
VIDEO: Sir Jardine-Matheson "The Case for Free Trade"
VIDEO: Britannia sings "Money"
VIDEO: Gary Lammin presents the Hackney Tea Ceremony
VIDEO: Anna Chen sings Anna May Wong Must Die!
VIDEO: Anna Chen sings The Camellia and the Poppy

What they said ...

“Invigorating, engrossing, witty, passionate and righteous – they should put Anna Chen’s The Steampunk Opium Wars on the school history curriculum.” Ben Chu of the Independent

… a novelty in politically charged entertainment, defies easy analysis. ... not so much political entertainment as politicising entertainment. … You can’t really ask for more.” Ben Chacko in the Morning Star

Britain's craving for chinoiserie in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in a trade imbalance that threatened to empty the treasury. To pay for the tea, silks, spices and porcelain we liked so much, the East India Company forced enormous quantities of cheap, mass-produced Bengal-grown opium on China at gunpoint, turning an aristocratic vice into a nationwide addiction.

The profits from the opium trade made fortunes, earned revenues for the British government, paid for the administration of the Empire in India and even financed a large slice of Royal Navy costs. When the Chinese tried to halt the import of the drug, the narco-capitalists persuaded Foreign Secretary Palmerston and Lord Melbourne's government to go to war in 1839. The first military conflict, lasting a bloody three years, resulted in the coerced Treaty of Nanking and the transfer of territory including Hong Kong to British rule.

In The Steampunk Opium Wars, poet Anna Chen brings you a satirical extravaganza about China, Britain, imperialism and drugs in the 19th century in verse & music. See narco-capitalists & Chinese lawmakers slug it out, take part in a poetry slam, and watch the weirdest tea ceremony ever.


Gary Lammin delivers the Hackney Tea Ceremony 

DEBUT PERFORMANCE National Maritime Museum, Greenwich 6.30-10pm, Thursday 16th February 2012

What do the humble cup of tea and the opium poppy have in common?

A dastardly tale of imperialism, drugs and warfare, the story of this dark episode in British history is told in The Steampunk Opium Wars, revue written and hosted by Anna Chen inside the belly of the beast, the heart of Empire, the Royal National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Government narco-capitalists and Chinese law-enforcers slug it out in verse, and members of the audience have the chance to write and take part in a Farrago Poetry History Slam.

With music from legendary writer Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague's Marc "The Exorcist" Jefferies; former Flying Lizards singer Deborah Evans-Stickland singing her mega-hit "Money"; DJ Zoe "Lucky Cat" Baxter of Resonance FM; and Gary Lammin of The Bermondsey Joyriders in the weirdest tea ceremony you've ever seen.

Featuring Paul Anderson, John Crow Constable, Neil Hornick, John Paul O'Neill, Hugo Trebels, and Louise Whittle.

Sir Jardine Matheson (Paul Anderson) makes The Case for Free Trade to Lord Palmerston (John Crow Constable)

Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston (John Crow Constable) argues for the First Opium War, 1839-42
The Steampunk Opium Wars at the Royal National Maritime Museum

Narrator Anna photographed by Sukey Parnell Johnson

 Flyer photo of Anna by Jan Jefferies

The Blood Never Dried by John Newsinger (Bookmarks)
Opium by Martin Booth (Simon & Schuster Ltd)
The Opium War by Julia Lovell (Picador).
Interesting online articles by Justin Kiersky at the Border Arts Project, a Chinese health and education project helping young people whose families have been affected by drug abuse and HIV/Aids.

This stuff is still going on:
 Drugs money saved banks in global crisis in 2007.
 Banks and drugs in the modern world.
 Niall Ferguson and Civilisation