Kennington will unveil its new library with some special entertainment, Nicola Lisle discovers

It is fitting that Kennington’s new-look library should be celebrated with a show by a local author and musician.

Nia Williams’ 90-minute musical Smoke and Mirrors, which premiered at the Old Fire Station in 2013, is being given its first revival in honour of the occasion.

The story follows the lives of twin sisters — both played by local mezzo Rebecca Martin —who are born in poverty in Berlin in 1900 but go their separate ways and meet up again 30 years later.

Their stories reflect the journey of German composer Kurt Weill, who was born in Berlin but escaped from there when the Nazis got into power, travelling first to Paris and later to California. Weill’s music is used throughout the piece, with Nia’s libretto providing the linking narrative.

“His music changes as he goes along, so this story traces that path,” explains Nia. “It’s an unusual piece in the sense that Rebecca plays two characters and sings in three languages, so she’s got quite a task on her hands!

“We thought about doing all the songs in English, but they work so much better in their original languages, and Rebecca speaks French and German, and sings in French and German, so she feels at home doing it. I’ve put translations in the programme so that people know what she’s singing about.”

As a one-hander lasting just under an hour and half, with no interval, the piece is a major endurance test for its only player.

“I’m amazed at the way Rebecca’s taken this on board and what she’s done with it — it’s been great,” says Nia.

“One of the most challenging things for her is to distinguish between these two characters. Essentially she’s got to be two very different personalities and suggest that with her voice and her manner, so we had quite an interesting time discussing how we would do that.

“We do use props to a certain extent, but mainly it’s down to Rebecca’s performance.

“It’s lovely for me because I am accompanying it, so it’s almost like I’m privileged audience, because I’m there on stage with her but not part of the action.

“It’s great. I really enjoyed it when we did it at the Fire Station, as I was getting this fantastic view of the whole performance.

Reviving the piece after two years was, Nia admits, quite a challenge.

“It’s amazing how much you forget and how much you have to reinvent it, but we can do that because it’s the just the two of us so we have that kind of freedom.

“Also it’s a very different setting this time, because we’re doing it in Kennington Village Centre, so it will be interesting to see how that changes it.”

Kennington Library is also celebrating its opening with a special event for children — an opportunity to meet popular character Winnie the Witch and her illustrator, Korky Paul. Drinks are available from 10.30am, with the children’s entertainment running from 11am to 12 noon.

For more on the library, visit