Yes…Another Theatre Picks Of 2015! Celebrating Brand New Productions.

 

After all that sherry and stir fried turkey, you can now read my theatre picks of 2015, a belated Christmas gift. The four productions I have chosen, are brand new works performed in London in 2015, that made a big impact on myself. I would also love to hear your thoughts, on what really captured your imagination this year.

The Stationmaster

 

This new musical was the headliner of the From Page to Stage Season of New Musical Theatre, at Tristan Bates Theatre this autumn, produced by Aria Entertainment. It shone like a beacon for many reasons. The Stationmaster is written by Susannah Pearse with music and lyrics by Tim Connor, this is a duo I would very much like to see in the future as the combination was electrifying. With a wonderfully fast pace direction from Bronagh Lagan, this fifties era piece of how a well ordered life can crumble around you in the blink of an eye, was engaging and fresh. It’s two leads, Nigel Richards as The Station Master and Emily Bull as his downfall Anna, were exquisite. With a supporting cast brimming with strong performances, this was a must-see.

The White Feather

 

Sometimes you watch a production that defines a genre, in fact you could say redefines a genre. The White Feather Musical at Union Theatre by Ross Clark and Andrew Keates absolutely astounded, it touched and it certainly achieved something great. A musical that manages to capture the sense of grief and despair of the Great War, not to mention the effects of PTSD, is something I have never witnessed before and was a privelige to be in the audience. Abigail Matthews as Georgina, the determined and spirited sister of a young man Harry, whose life is ruined by World War I and fights for justice to clear his good name, is spellbinding. Andrew Keates direction, paired with a sumptuous score that includes the haunting ‘Set Them In Stone’ is a result that is pure magic. Katie Brennan, one of the finest actresses in London right now, is pure joy as Georgina’s best friend Edith and a special mention to Adam Pettigrew’s wonderfully subtle performance as the mentally tortured Harry.

And Then Come The Nightjars 

 

Topical and affecting are two words that don’t always come to together in equal partnership, Bea Robert’s play And Then Come The Nightjars at Theatre503 managed this exceptionally. Describing the pain of one farmers life being destroyed by the 2001 foot and mouth crisis and his friendship with a powerless vet, this two hander was exceptional. Paul Robinson captured the intimacy of the two men perfectly, with his sensitive direction. David Fielder as Michael the plain speaking farmer, was deservedly nominated for an Offie and Nigel Hastings as the aimable Jeff were brilliant casting, with some genuinely humorous moments, as well as heartwrenching ones. With an authentic set design, the audience were transported to a barn full of enchanting moments in the West Country, thanks to Max Dorey.

The State vs John Hayes 

 

 In one word..Outstanding. This one woman play at King’s Head Theatre, written as well as performed by Lucy Roslyn and directed by Jemma Gross and produced by Epsilon Productions, was one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to watch. A set of just a bed in a prison cell was all that was needed, as Lucy Roslyn gives that performance as Elyese Dukie, a double murderer riddled by sexual oppression and deep rooted childhood issues. The State vs John Hayes shows an often unrepentant American killer, but also a fragile and complex human being. Roslyn and Gross have certainly created a masterpiece, I look forward to seeing what Epsilon Productions do next in in 2016.

 



 

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Sometimes A Few Encouraging Words Can Make All The Difference

 

You have already put yourself down at least ten times today. Your voice sounds tired, you look tired and you’ve had enough, can’t it just be Christmas now? 

Sound familiar? Well if you are performer, then you will have probably had probably more self doubts today than you’ve had mince pies. This is simply because that’s what we do all the time, on loop. We wait for the wicked witch of the stress to be defeated by us, in a spectacular fashion. Like that’s actually going to happen. 

No, the remedy for temporary curing this crippling doubt in your head is something quite simple. It is someone actually giving you some positive feedback or praise (whichever description you prefer). I realised this, after performing in a show recently and receiving a beautiful letter from the Show’s organiser, it’s words and sentiment made me smile all day as a result. I can’t speak highly enough of the impact praise does to one’s soul. 

Being told what you are doing right is just as vital as what you can improve on, in the form of constructive criticism. Without sounding overly schmaltzy here, when you constantly have self doubt disguised by a confident persona, what joy fills your heart when you can just relax, breathe and say ‘wow I actually did that and they enjoyed it’

Giving enjoyment through your performing should be a definite perk of your career. Being told you’ve made a difference to someone or an occassion should make a difference to you too. Well I know it will, because it shows someone cares enough to tell you and those words will lift any performer like a crane and transport them, out of that darkness of their own mind and in to somewhere with more light. So your bad day is a thing of the past!

Praise written or spoken which is thoroughly deserved, will ALWAYS be welcomed.

Visit The Weald In Daniel Foxsmith’s New Play.

 

Weald by Daniel Foxsmith Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Tuesday 2nd– Saturday 27th February 2016

All I needed to do was stand firm like the rest, take a breath and I’d’ve been fine. Break heart, drop blood, done. Always take a breath Jim. Always take a breath. 

Weald is a terse and delicate dissection of male emotions from a rural perspective: fathers and sons, honour and legacy, molasses and mud. This poignant world premiere by Daniel Foxsmith is directed by Bryony Shanahan of critically acclaimed shows Operation Crucible and Bitch Boxer.
After eight years away Jim arrives ‘home’ to a remote livery yard in rural England. He’s in need of work. It didn’t end so well last time, but he’s sure that this time it’ll be different…Sam, as old as the fixtures and fittings themselves, reluctantly agrees – there’s work to be done after all. As the men attempt to pick up from where they left off, fresh cracks appear beside old wounds. Things have changed. But the world can only be held at bay for so long before the two men will have to answer for their actions. 

Writer Daniel Foxsmith comments, 

I’m interested in men’s identity in a modern world, one that is slowly leaving traditional gender roles behind. What does it mean to ‘be a man’ nowadays? Does it even matter anymore? With Weald I’m asking why men (including myself) struggle to be emotionally transparent, particularly with each other. My frustrations with my own shortcomings have found their way into the writing, and the ideas I’m keen to explore are told through the relationship between father and son; what we give to each other and what we take away, the unspoken bond that cannot be replaced and how men of all ages attempt to bridge generational gaps.In 2014, there were 4,623 male suicides in the UK (figures collated by the Campaign Against Living Miserably), the second highest number in 15 years and the equivalent of 12 deaths a day. Weald looks at the importance of a support network for the vulnerable and the need for men to articulate their emotions and redefine gender roles.
Weald is in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and supported by BBC Performing Arts Fund Legacy Grant. 

It is Daniel Foxsmith’s third full-length play. Bryony Shanahan along with Charlotte Josephine are co-Artistic Directors of multi award-winning Snuff Box Theatre.
Supported by Arts Council England.

http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

 

 

 

Christmas Carols ARE Christmas When You’re A Singer

As a singer you can’t glide through the festive period without giving someone (usually an audience) a classic Christmas carol or two. It’s a given, especially if a Classical and Musical Theatre singer, that you will be required to sing O Holy Night or Silent Night at least once…or probably three times just for luck which is fine by me as I could sing these continuously for hours on end!

I firmly believe carols are vital for any singer no matter what genre, they are what audiences want. You give the audience want they want. Standard. And yes audiences do love Christmas Carols, ultimately as it’s association with Christmas is unparalleled. Everyone has a favourite carol whether for it’s lyrics or melody or ultimately both. Nostalgia and sentiment is a large thread during the festive period.

Religion preference should not be a factor as ultimately as a performer you perform a mixture of music from a vast pool of beliefs. One of the most wonderful things as a performer, is singing music and gaining understanding of different faiths through music, which builds a unity of cultures, which is so vital in society.

It is not an exaggeration to say Christmas is one of the most musically based times of the year whether popular tunes such as Wham! Last Christmas and Band Aid Do They Know It’s Christmas or classical pieces such as Schubert’s Ave Maria. The variety is incredible and should be embraced, but the traditional is really what has for hundreds of years, been an enduring force. 

As a performer, always embrace carols as they have embraced you and continue to enrich you with some of the most beautiful music ever written to share with an audience, you could say a gift.

Firebird Is Flying In To Trafalgar Studios!

 
FIREBIRD BY PHIL DAVIES

‘Hampstead Downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios’ continues with Phil Davies’ debut play Firebird, following Four Minutes Twelve Seconds and The Wasp

Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY 

Wednesday 17th February – Saturday 19th March 2016

Phil Davies’ debut play Firebird, directed by Hampstead’s Artistic Director Edward Hall, will open at the Trafalgar Studios in the New Year. This searing new thriller movingly illustrates how easily young people are exploited and used.

Tia’s mouthy attitude and confident swagger hide a vulnerable teenager whose tough start in life dangerously draws her to AJ. Older, good-looking and charismatic, AJ shows her a kindness she’s never known before. But this kindness comes at a price.

Responding to nationwide cases of child sexual exploitation throughout Britain, including those in Davies’ hometown of Rochdale, Firebird shows how easy it can be for vulnerable young people to fall victim to sexual abuse. The play powerfully dramatises how the innocent are all too often failed by the authorities who are meant to protect them.

Firebird is a story of hope – unfortunately based on truth.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, says, When we first saw Firebird at Hampstead Downstairs, we were bowled over. Its power to highlight the brutal reality that child victims of this crime face and that our services across the country deal with every day is remarkable.

It is fantastic that the play is opening in the Trafalgar Studios, which will help raise awareness about this terrible truth. Firebird was recently free-streamed on Timeout.com to support The Children’s Society’s ‘Seriously Awkward’ campaign to urge the Government to strengthen the law so that young people at risk of sexual exploitation, or those who have already experienced it, get the protection they need.
Edward Hall comments,

 Theatre has an incredible power to provoke discussion and sometimes even to bring about change. 

Without the platform for new writing, this power rapidly diminishes. Hampstead Downstairs exists for moments like now – unearthing new work that has the power to inspire, to challenge and to provoke; stories that reflect what’s going on in the world in which we live today.

Phil Davies comments, 

Firebird is my first full-length play and I can’t believe the journey it’s been on. I was thrilled when I found out I was going to be given the chance to try it out Downstairs, for it to then open at the Trafalgar Studios, having also been live-streamed by Time Out for the brilliant Children’s Society, I feel very fortunate indeed. If the play can in some way have a positive impact on vulnerable young people then I will be massively proud.

Edward Hall has directed some of Hampstead’s biggest hits including the Olivier Award-winning musical Sunny Afternoon, Chariots of Fire (both of which transferred to the West End) and Wonderland.

This production is part of ‘Hampstead Downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios’ following Four Minutes Twelve Seconds by James Fritz and The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/trafalgar-studios/

 

 

 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time..Actually Is It?

My heart broke in two when I watched a news report a couple of days ago, about loneliness in elderly people, especially at Christmas, on the Sky News Channel. Without going too much in to specifics I was saddened to my core to see an elderly lady talking about her continuing loneliness, despite having a family who she did not see often. 

This got me thinking about in general terms how often an elderly person gets to see their family. Without sounding preachy, this is a subject that shouldn’t have to be brought to the attention of the public, as older people shouldn’t feel isolated and ignored (which is only magnified at Christmas). It’s just mind boggling that this is an epidemic in the UK.

 I’ve decided, as a result of my being so very incensed, to write a short theatrical work that demonstrates the reality of the situation. This is to raise awareness of the subject and to bring it to life. How often do you see a play realistically covering the harsh reality of this topic, in the same way you see one of heartbreak or death for example? You get the picture very quickly! Theatre is a way of telling stories and there are many stories out there that need to be told. 

Other communities get their voices heard through theatre and a generation of elderly people finding they have become lonely and forgottern, should do too. A community of despairing and isolated people who were once younger just like us, with real stories to tell of life, should be valued and their plight should be projected, so they aren’t an invisible generation. Christmas is a time of being with those you care about even if it’s once a year, being alone at this time of year only highlights someone’s sadness at the emptiness they have to endure. 

It felt very important to share with you my decision to write a work called ‘Jam Roly Poly’. Although it will not be based around the Christmas period, it has been inspired by the sense of often quiet despair at all year round as well as this time of year, more details when it is completed.