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A love story in a war zone

The journey of the show

In 1979 Rice Harvest was released as a single on Arista Records. I can still remember meeting the Vietnamese boat children who sang on it. Stationed at Kensington Barracks just around the corner from the studio, the story of their escape and voyage was incredible. It felt like a window to another scarcely believable world had opened and this inspired me to write many new songs. I then began to envisage a musical. 

In 2012 I was commissioned by Julie Stanning, Head of Bexley Music, to re-arrange Rice Harvest for a performance at Fairfield Halls by a 300-piece children’s choir with orchestra.

This led to meeting video artist Hong Dam, herself a boat person, and Alan Dibb, who was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.

I felt that this story needed to be told. I added more songs and enlisted the help of William Dashwood to develop and write the script. Although based on past events in Vietnam, Rice Harvest – the musical addresses the same global issues still faced by so many people today.

In 2016 the potential of the show was recognised by Karen Dwyer-Burchill, head teacher of Italia Conti Theatre School, and together with director Matthew McDowall and students we performed a version of Act 1 at various schools, and at Rich Mix in London.

In 2017 Act 2 was workshopped at the Guildford School of Acting, and we were invited to perform the songs in concert at the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. 

In October 2019 the first full production was staged for two nights at The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford. 

It has been a long journey, but immensely fulfilling. We have enjoyed working with the Vietnamese families who have made it possible and will continue together, bringing their story of triumph over adversity to a new generation through musical theatre and song. 

We hope you will enjoy the show. 

Keith Hale

Rice Harvest – the musical is produced by Parasol Music Productions, an association established with the aim of working with schools and professional musicians and actors to produce and perform modern musical theatre, and to foster an appreciation of music and the performing arts, especially in schools and among young people.