Le Gâteau d’Anniversaire

Le Gâteau d’Anniversaire

The Birthday Cake


Tim Benjamin and Nicolas Flandrin-Jones
Tim Benjamin
Rebecca Lea

The subconscious, through the medium of dreams, has the power to free us from custom and convention.

And there are no greater customs and conventions than in the high-brow world of the dedicated paniphile.

“Le vrai réalisme consiste à montrer les choses surprenantes que l’habitude cache sous une housse et nous empêche de voir.”
Jean Cocteau, Le Mystère Laïc (1928)

Le Gâteau d’Anniversaire, originally commissioned by CNIPAL, France, is a farcical one-act comedy, which combines the topics of serious bread-making and the French Revolution, and ultimately showing how the subconscious can solve problems that elude the waking mind.

“The music gives the words a hyperrealistic sheen ... dramatically one was swiftly swept along without question”
Musical Criticism / Tim Rutherford-Johnson

Solving Problems With Dreams

The popular idea that dreams exist to solve problems has relatively little scientific support, despite famous anecdotes. However, such “problem solving” aspects to dreams reflect the Jungian archetype of the “shadow” and its creative and gift-giving aspects and are reflected in Le Gâteau d’Anniversaire.

The character of the baker Louis is consistent through his dreaming and waking self, but his dream-world is in shadow or inversion, and he is tormented to give up his singular passion and his beloved sisters become terrifying apparitions.

“I chose to present such deep subjects through a comedy or farce based on the famous words ‘let them eat cake’ apocryphally uttered by Marie Antoinette upon hearing that the public had no bread. In English, the distinction between “cake” and “bread” is clear, but in French there is a finer difference between “brioche” and “pain”. Nonetheless, after meeting several friends so obsessed with breadmaking that they gave names to their sourdough starters, I decided that this, together with the traditional figure of the comic baker, would provide a fun vehicle for a comedy and a narrative for the more serious material.”
Tim Benjamin, composer ofLe Gâteau

Along with several musical jokes and numerous French puns the text takes in the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen, and with the subsequent transformation of the apparitions Marie and Antoinette into Olympe de Gouges and Théroigne de Méricourt the satiricalDéclaration des droits de la femme, and its invocation: “Femme, réveille-toi!” is recalled.

“The music moves from idea to idea with alacrity, occasionally throwing up references to stylistic idioms when the mood seemed to warrant it, [and] communicates something of the stream of consciousness from which dreams are formed.”
5 Against 4 / Simon Cummings


“A highly effective trio ... all three clearly relished their rôles; Jonathan Ainscough was splendidly henpecked as Louis, while Emma Hall and Laura Sheerin as the sisters Antoinette and Marie took to their parts with a deliciously wicked sense of glee.”
5 Against 4 / Simon Cummings

  • Laura Sheerin

    Laura Elizabeth Sheerin graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2009 and completed her Master’s in Solo Performance with Distinction in 2011 both from the Royal Northern College of Music studying with Peter Alexander Wilson, and receiving the Yamaha Vocal Scholarship 2009/10 and a Headley Trust Bursary 2010/11. Laura then went on to complete the Young Artists’ Programme with Northern Ireland Opera in 2012-13, performing several full scale and touring operatic roles and frequent recitals throughout the year.

    On the operatic stage Laura has performed the roles of Geraldine (A Hand of Bridge), Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel) with NI Opera, cover Venus (Orpheus in the Underworld) with Scottish Opera & NI Opera, and Susan (A Dinner Engagement) with Wexford Festival Opera. Laura also premiered (UK) the roles of Zerlina (Madame X) and Marie (Le gâteau d’anniversaire) with Radius Opera. Laura has performed operatic scenes at the Italian Opera Summer School in Puglia, Italy and at the Mediterranean Opera Studio throughout Sicily in July.

    Laura studied with Nelly Miricioiu and was the grateful recipient of a Young Musician’s Platform Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for 2013-2015.

    “Laura Sheerin finds a beautiful balance between innocence and a feisty spirit as Zerlina [in Madame X], with a voice ready for the big stage”
    A Younger Theatre


  • Emma Hall
    Emma Hall


  • Jonathan Ainscough
    Jonathan Ainscough


Jamie Thompson
Rebecca Lea


Le Gâteau toured in 2010 in a co-production with Re:Sound

All Saints Arts Centre, London
22nd September 2010
Southbank Centre, London
23rd September 2010