My Stagey Week - 20
There are moments with any job, when it starts to feel like a job and you want to throw the towel in. When certain elements become tedious or relentless, or you start to lose track of why it is you’re doing it. You hit a wall. Usually it’s just because you’re tired or because the work load is overwhelming.
Theresa May announced this week that she will leave the job that has been “the honour of her life.” The intro to my vlog this week mocks the Prime Minister’s resignation speech, but in all honesty, it could so easily have been me announcing that I was giving up. That I was standing down. That I had had enough. Fortunately, by the end of a long week, a show came along that rescued me, a show that reinvigorated my passion for theatre and reminded me how great theatre can be when it’s done well.
Although I never intended it, producing this blog has become a full-time job. Before starting it in January, I remember Andrew Tomlins, the brilliant man behind the much-loved West End Frame blog, telling me shortly after he cancelled his blog after a successful five-year run, the reason was that it consumed too much of his life.
My life was already consumed by theatre. I was already seeing nearly 300 shows a year. Most of my friends worked in theatre. I worked in theatre. It was a natural progression that I would start a blog, and for the most part I have loved every minute of it. I welcome it as my new job.
But like any full-time job the fatigue sets in. Constantly travelling around London, across theatres and further afield to region theatres, keeping up to date and reporting on news, producing a weekly vlog and editing it myself. Meeting and interviewing people, and more editing. Devoting most evenings to seeing shows.
Although I cannot and won’t complain. As far as jobs go, it’s a privilege to see all these shows, to meet these incredible and passionate like-minded people, who love theatre just as much as I do.
I initially set out to produce a weekly vlog every Monday, and release one interview every Friday, and initially I sought the people to interview. It’s now developed in to people approaching me, asking if I would interview them, which is an honour. I am also now invited to more events and to cover shows that I wouldn’t normally have even known about, and again it’s an honour to be asked.
Even as I write this, I feel a fraud complaining about being too busy, when I should count my blessings, and also appreciate that on top of all this, at least I don’t have kids to occupy. None the less, it has been a long and tiring week. That’s all I’m saying.
As well as producing my blog, I do actually continue to work as an actor, and this week I have been busy filming a small part in a new series written by Lucy Kirkwood and starring Sheridan Smith and Rupert Everett. The series is called Adult Material and is based around the porn industry. My two days of filming involved ‘partying’ with porn stars around a pool in the back garden of a house in Richmond.
O.K. I can see why you wouldn’t consider that as ‘work’ and to be honest, I’m inclined to agree. I had a fabulous time, mostly sunbathing between takes and chatting to cute boys. None the less, they were long and tiring days.
As well as fitting in these two 12 hour filming days, I also saw seven shows this week, filmed three interviews, made two cinema trips, and travelled to Cirencester and even found time to give a cute bar man my number.
It started on Monday when I was approached by Kurt Kansley and asked if I would interview him and Oliver Lidert about their writing partnership and upcoming show Confessions.
I have known Kurt for several years since we met whilst he was in Miss Saigon. He has recently been away in his native Australia playing Che opposite Tina Arena in Evita. For five years he has been writing with Oliver Lidert, who is currently understudying the genie in Aladdin.
Kurt had sent me some You Tube links to some of the songs that they had written, and I was honestly impressed.
I met the pair at the Soho hotel where they were drinking tea with Molly Marie Walsh, who was introduced to me as the director of their show. They wanted to talk about Confessions, which is the show they are developing. Having staged the show last year with Molly as director, they had invited her back for another week long workshop presentation, this time at the Other Palace between 17th and 22nd June.
As I began to set up my camera for the interview, Oliver sheepishly told me that they hadn’t actually asked whether we could film here at the Soho hotel, sure enough before we even got chance to start rolling, one of the managers from the hotel stepped in and told us we weren’t allowed. It wasn’t a problem as I suggested we go around the corner to the Prince Edward theatre, and film it there.
As Oliver was playing the Genie today, we got to use Trevor Dion Nicholas’ dressing room. With some furniture rearranged and the camera set up, we chatted about the show. Oliver made some really nice remarks about writing for women as ethnic writers, championing anyone who is marginalized. It was really inspiring to hear both Oliver and Kurt discuss what drives them.
The whole interview can be found on my You Tube page: https://youtu.be/LPtseQw1j2I
To book tickets for Confessions at the Other Palace visit: https://lwtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/confessions/
I had time for a quick gym session after the interview before going to watch La Voix- Live, Loud & Fabulous at the Underbelly Festival.
La Voix had personally invited me to watch the show and offered me a pair of tickets. I was flattered, as like many I had seen La Voix perform on Britain’s Got Talent, I was also part of the scene that she filmed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for the Absolutely Fabulous movie.
I met my friend Ben who was my guest for the evening, and ordered some over-priced fish and chips from one of the food stalls at the Underbelly, while we sat and drank cider.
I watched as soap stars Lucy Bemjamin and Wendi Peters arrived to watch the show, along with Absolutely Fabulous star Harriet Thorpe. I gave Harriet a hug and asked how the recent West End flea market for Acting for Others, had gone. She told me it had been a tremendous success. I also asked about the moon walk for Walk the Walk which she took part in.
As we settled in for La Voix’s hour long show with a live four-piece band, I was instantly impressed. As with any drag queen, La Voix is a master of wit and comedy, making banter with the audience effortlessly. She also sounds incredible, and surprised me with her impeccable impersonations of Shirley Bassey, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Tina Turner. La Voix also masters the fasted quick changes I have even known as I lost count with how many fabulous outfits she kept coming out in.
I didn’t want the show to end, with my only complaint being that it was only an hour long. It’s also disappointing that La Voix was only in London for one night, as I would definitely recommend this show.
La Voix, can however now be found around the country on tour. For more details about which cities she will be visiting, visit her website: https://lavoix.co.uk/tourdates
After La Voix, Ben and I raced over to Halfway 2 Heaven, near Charing Cross for a new stand up comedy show 'Happy Ending’ hosted by comedian Kat #pussykatbangkok, with special guests Mr Fabulous from All Together Now and Christeen.
Kat has been working really hard on her stand-up routine having once appeared on Big Brother. The room was full of love as she smashed her first show, with Christeen displaying a fabulous performance that you would expect from the winner of LipSyncWar 2018.
You can follow both of them on Instagram, @kat.comedian and @mrchrisgroom
Ben and I were sufficiently lubricated by the time we rocked up at Ku bar, where I was in pursuit of a young man who worked there, whom I met at an after party last week. While Ben showed off his dance moves, I flirted outrageously across the bar giving the guy my number, before going home with a Mcdonalds.
On Tuesday I was back at the Union Theatre to interview fourteen of the cast of Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens.
The show pays tributes to the thousands of people who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic during the eighties. Talking to the cast about this, was very overwhelming, and at times, I struggled to hold it together whilst listening to the cast talk about the topic. I chatted to the cast for over an hour, listening to how the show has impacted them.
After this I met up with my friend Drew who was on his way to watch Matthew Broderick in the Starry Messenger. Meanwhile I was meeting Ben again who tonight was my plus one for the relaunch of Lola’s Underground Casino at the Hippodrome.
I had been invited to watch a special cabaret show and theatre installation to show off their incredible new curved screen. We were treated to prosecco and canapes while several variety acts performed around us. They themed the night as James Bond meets Las Vegas with some circus thrown in for good measure.
Although the screen is impressive the graphics were at some points basic, and some of the acts were a bit ropey. Dancers who were out of sync, a singer who missed her cue, a contortionist who tripped over his own feet, and a magician who produced two live doves much to the disapproval I’m sure of any vegans in the room.
Never the less, it was entertaining enough, and as their clever marketing strap line conveyed, the bar has been risen. Whether this will become a new home for cabaret in the West End or simply remain a pretty back drop for those who are there simply to gamble, who knows.
After a strenuous day filming around a pool in 22 degree heat in Richmond, I finished with enough time to make it to the Kings Head theatre to watch my mates Robbie Smith and Lala Barlow in their London leg of their touring show the Worse Little Warehouse in London. If you had seen the interview I did with them last week, you will know all about this show, which I saw last year in Edinburgh, and watching it again it has all the charm and brilliance that I remembered.
The pair of them are genius and perfectly synced. It is a master class watching them perform together.
The interview I did with them is on my You Tube channel: https://youtu.be/oaDm_gp_Fb8
On Thursday I was busy filming again so didn’t make it to the theatre in the evening, I did however make a trip to the cinema to see the new live action version of Aladdin, which I thought was brilliant. It contains a new song by Dear Evan Hansen composers Pasek and Paul, and even has a cameo from Waitress star, Marisha Wallace.
The film is a superbly updated and reworked version of the original and was thoroughly enjoyable.
On Friday, after a much-needed lie in, I made my way to Victoria coach station where I boarded a coach to Cirencester that had been provided by the Barn Theatre to welcome an invited group of guests, bloggers and critics to watch their new production of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
The journey took over three hours, but we were welcomed with a platter of sandwiches and drinks before the show started at 6.30pm. We were welcomed by the recently appointed social media officer Aeron James. It was also nice to run in to Joe Houston, who had travelled down from the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester.
Producer Jamie Chapman Dixon and artistic director Iwan Lewis have assembled a strong cast of West End performers including Lauren Samuels and Aaron Sidwell, for both who this is their first Shakespeare play, and a far departure from their recent and most notable work in musical theatre.
Aaron who has acted in soaps since he was 18, and Lauren who I have seen act brilliantly in other plays, both do incredible work in this updated version of Henry V, which director Hal Chambers has incorporated many multi-media and contemporary styles.
It’s a bold and ambitious production from the Barn Theatre who have the huge undertaking of establishing a brand-new audience base in a town where there has never been a theatre before.
Having won best Fringe Theatre of the year 2019 at the Stage Awards, they are already off the a really great start, and the facilities that this new theatre has are incredible.
I was invited to Cirencester to get a guided tour from Jamie Chapman Dixon and chatted to Iwan Lewis last month, which can now be seen on my You Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/Zu6UnQRnot4
Before we got back on the coach to London, I had just enough time to grab a quick hug from Lauren and to see my other friend Sarah Waddell who plays the Queen of Scotts. Like Lauren I am only used to seeing Sarah sing, and am only used to her Scottish accent, so it was great to see her play something completely different. Both ladies were incredible.
Henry V runs until 22nd June at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester. For more information visit: https://barntheatre.org.uk/
On Saturday morning I went to Wimbledon to watch the matinee of Amelie the musical. Based on the critically acclaimed film and coproduced in association with The Watermill Theatre where the tour began, it is a beautiful show with Audrey Brisson perfectly cast as Amelie. The gorgeous Danny Mac plays her love interest, in the acto-muso production which is a visual delight.
The music is beautiful, and having not seen the film, I’m not sure how it compares but it is as quirky as I expect it ought to be.
The tour continues until October, with tickets available through their website: http://ameliethemusical.com/
After the matinee I then raced across to Oxford Circus where I had been asked to interview Wendy Carr and Georgi Mottram from girl group IDA.
They are taking part in the Big Smoke Festival at the Zedel next month, and producer Ian Stroughair, who I interview earlier this month, had asked me to interview the girls about their show.
I’ll be honest, I had not heard of the group, so had to do a little bit of research before I met with them. But I’m surprised as their style is right up my street. They are a group of musical theatre trained opera singers who brand themselves as a pop infused classical cross over.
The girls were lovely and it was a pleasure to meet them and chat to them. The full interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/Dv1BaU57I-g
And you can find out more about IDA on their website: http://www.idagirls.com/
You can also book tickets to their gig at the Crazy Coq on the 26th July: https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/ida-july-2019-1?date=186450532
After leaving the girls I joined director Bryan Hodgeson to watch Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens at the Union theatre.
Bryan sat at the back and made notes while I sat and cried throughout most of the show. It is a stunning production.
It goes without saying that the monologues and music is brilliant and revered. They are beautifully written and incredibly moving. Elegies has been staged several times, usually in a concert version.
Bryan has done an incredible job transforming this production which now flows beautifully. Working along with choreographer Adam Haigh and musical director Henry Brennan, this production showcases all of their skills, bringing together theatrical elements that complement each other. Having seen their work individually it was incredible to see how well they work collectively.
Sasha Regan has assembled the perfect blend of creatives which includes Justin Williams as set designer. The set is simple and effective as is Sasha’s costume design which evoke the sense of the eighties, whilst perfectly characterizing each story.
The casting by Adam Braham is brilliant, depicting perfectly the array of characters that these stories were based on.
While I sat, overwhelmed with emotion and delight, I was reminded that this is theatre at its best. Simple, joyous and beautiful.
The performances are emotive and sincere, from a talented cast who support each other unequivocally. The staging, sounds and lighting enhance the production effectively without over baring it.
As I write this, it has just been announced that Bryan has been deservedly nominated for an Offie award for best director.
Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens is on at the Union theatre until 8th June.
YOU MUST SEE IT.
Book your tickets here: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/elegies.html
I completed by week on Sunday with a cinema trip to see the new Elton John biopic Rocketman. It was sensational. Directed by Dexter Fletcher who took over as director on Bohemian Rhapsody, this is the music biopic that Bohemian Rhapsody should have been.
The portrayal of Elton's turmoil and depiction of his life coming to terms with his sexuality was far more honest than the way Freddy Mercury was portrayed.
The film is brilliantly shot and it was fun to watch and spot several musical theatre performers who I know had parts in it. I can easily see this film being redeveloped as a musical. Don't be surprised if it comes to the West End soon.
This week, Daniel Bolton was remembered at the Phoenix Theatre where he was part of the cast of Bend it Like Beckham his photo know hangs proudly as a memorial to his life.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, I had a wavering moment this week, when I felt overwhelmed, and wondered whether I even wanted to continue making this blog. But on reflection, this week has been incredible. I have seen some of the best theatre, and met some of the most passionate and driven creative people. It’s an honour and a privilege to support their work.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my You Tube channel here: https://youtu.be/GRQ0s8g_bOsAnd
The audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-20---Audio-e45fos