Jessica specialises in making genre-defying performance. Originally an opera singer, she has over the last few years become known for the creation and performance of her distinctive music theatre works, which are commissioned by opera companies, theatres and music festivals alike.
Equally at home in new music, cabaret and theatre, her most recent performing and creative projects have taken her from the Barbican to the Adelaide Festival to Brits off Broadway New York, where her last three shows have been Critic’s Pick in the New York Times. Her most recent and future creative projects include Not Such Quiet Girls, with Joseph Atkins, commissioned by Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, (Dead) Funny Ladies – a new solo show for the Lichfield Festival, and workshops for her new piece in development with the Royal Opera House. Current performing credits include the world premiere of Alone in Berlin at Royal and Derngate, Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest for Neue Oper Freiburg in Freiburg and Paris, and On the Town for the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Japan.
Other recent projects have included her play All I Want is One Night, originally produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, with further performances at Wilton's Music Hall, the Hope Mill theatre Manchester and the Brits off Broadway Festival New York; a residency at Snape Maltings for a new music theatre piece currently in development; the UK premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider's song cycle Penelope with Psappha; a recording of WW1 songs for Enter the Peace Broker (Chrome Radio); her new CD All I Want is One Night - death and desire at the French cabaret (Chrome Media); Casting Ouch, a new cabaret with original songs by Jessica Walker and Joseph Atkins (Live at Zedel and the King's Head theatre); Mercy and Grand - the Tom Waits project at the Adelaide Festival with Gavin Bryars; the singer in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker (Royal Exchange Theatre and Manchester International Festival), recorded for BBC Radio 3; Gwendolen in Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest (Northern Ireland Opera), Nurse/ Harriet in Sunday in the Park with George (Theatre du Chatelet); Gloria, A Pig Tale, by HK Gruber (The Opera Group).
From 2010-15 Jessica toured The Girl I Left Behind Me, a solo piece devised by her and director Neil Bartlett, and commissioned by Opera North projects, to great critical acclaim. Performances included a week's residency at the Barbican Pit, the Purcell Room, Howard Assembly Rooms, Sage Gateshead, Brighton Theatre Royal, Aldeburgh Festival, Coutts Arts Festival, the Frome Festival, Buxton Festival, Lowry Salford Quays and Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The piece enjoyed a 3 week sell-out run at the 2013 festival at the 59E59 theatre New York, was recently published as a play script by Oberon Press, and was released in 2014 as a CD on the Original Cast Recordings label.
Her solo show, Pat Kirkwood is Angry, originally co-produced by Opera North, in association with Royal Exchange Theatre, and directed by Lee Blakeley, began life at the Manchester Royal Exchange studio and the Howard Assembly Rooms in October 2012, and has toured ever since, with performances at the St James Theatre, London, Grassington Festival, the Richard Burton Theatre, Cardiff, Lichfield Festival and the main stage of the Royal Exchange. In June 2014 went to the Brits off Broadway festival for a three-week run. Her cabaret opera - An Eye for an Eye - written with composer David Knotts, premiered at both the Bath and St Magnus music festivals in 2013.
Alongside her writing and performing, Jessica leads and devises work at The Royal Academy of Music, where she is a lecturer in Artist Development. She has also mentored work for Trinity Laban’s Co-Lab collaborative practice scheme, and the Jerwood opera-writing scheme at Snape Maltings.
Photo credit: Ruth Crafer