My Stagey Week 37
Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Whilst Brooklyn the Musical was enjoying their press night in Greenwich I was at SingEasy to watch the gorgeous Charlotte Anne Steen in her very own cabaret.
SingEasy continues to produce these intimate cabarets for performers who have always wanted to put together a cabaret but have been too afraid to do so, or just haven’t got around to it yet.
Charlotte Anne Steen is an incredible performer with an incredible CV that includes Bat Out of Hell, 42nd Street, Rock of Ages and We Will Rock You.
I actually first met Charlotte at the Piano Works West End when she was a guest on the Monday evening cabaret that I hosted called The Show Goes On.
I caught up with her again earlier this summer in Edinburgh where she was part of the cast of I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical.
Her guests included Charlotte O’Rourke from I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical, Joseph Peacock from Bat Out of Hell, competition winner Charlotte Allen, and Jodie Steele who had performed with Charlotte in a production of Rent at the Tabard Theatre.
Each performed a duet with Charlotte as well as a song of their own.
Charlottes MD for the evening was Ashley Harvey with guitarist Connor Baxter.
The evening was in support of Platinum Little Stars, a charity who raise money for children with juvenile arthritis and children with epilepsy.
It was a brilliant evening with Charlotte appearing confident and relaxed and delighting the audience with a mix of musical theatre and pop and rock songs.
Some videos of the performances can be found on my YouTube page.
Charlotte O’Rourke performing Lately
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/EQFPRGPP6-Y
JodieSamSteele performing History of Wrong Guys
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/08wKdmNGeYA
Charlotte Anne Steen and Jodie Steele performing Take Me Or Leave Me
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/cuwNsTDbFWQ
Joseph Peacock performing Hold Me While You Wait
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/0N3hFRmekPk
Charlotte A Steen and Joseph Peacock peforming Broken Strings
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/uzvLQYWSpy4
Charlotte Anne Steen and Charlotte O’Rourke performing That’s Life
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/5pSBgnXMBmQ
Charlotte Anne Steen performing Heaven Can Wait
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/zanJ2odTeRU
Charlotte Anne Steen performing It’s All Coming Back To Me Now
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/LQlCitIVNeU
Charlotte Anne Steen performing
I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/WqIC_EYCCaA
Summer of 69 performed by Charlotte Anne Steen, Charlotte O’Rouke, Joseph Peacock and Charlotte Allen
📺 Video: https://youtu.be/rjlx6BDYhFQ
On Tuesday I met up with Liv Warden to chat about her her experiences as a writer/actor.
Liv and I met two years ago during a playwriting course at the National Theatre. She then went on to write her first post Anomaly that was produced at the Old Red Lion. After that she co wrote the musical Gretel! at The Other Palace with Charlie Turner.
I met Liv at the Other Palace where we sheltered from the outside rain and talked about new writing and the challenges of being a new female voice.
The interview which contains footage and music featuring the cast of Gretel! A New Musical. Ellen MacAllen. Mikey Wooster. Tom Duern. Nikki Henderson. Mina Dahle. Roxanne Applebee. Charles Camrose. Joely Barbour. Georgia Burnell. Rebecca Lauren. Aoife Clesham can be found here:
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/txYjBBbknPc
On Tuesday evening I was at Theatre Peckham to watch a political kids show called The Border.
I had no idea there even was a theatre in Peckham, but tucked away in south east London this 200 seat theatre was home for a limited three day run of this new play written by Afsaneh Gray which has been touring schools and venues around the UK since September.
Theatre in education, as it’s commonly known can often get a bad rep for being a bit naff. The BBC comedy series The League of Gentleman even lampoon the genre, and obviously not being a school child or teacher myself, I have limited experience of seeing many TiE productions.
Having been invited to watch this one, I can’t with an open mind.
Produced by Theatre Centre who specialise in theatre in education, The Border is directed by artistic director Natalie Wilson.
It opens with the cast of four Jazmine Wilkinson, Lucie Capel, Matt Littleson and Rujenne Green dressing up as dogs and then sing an opening song composed by Ted Barnes.
It is at this point I did feel like I was watching early morning kids TV, and was starting to think this really wasn’t for me. But the production then developed and began to make sense.
The story set in a fictitious town which is divided into two halves by the erection of a wall. A young girl stuck on one side of the wall loses her dog to the other side of the wall.
Possibly based or certainly influenced by Greta Thunberg, the young girl then begins a campaign on social media resulting in a meeting with the mayor of the town.
The performances were very exaggerated but the content certainly wasn’t. Mirroring modern politics, this production made sets out and successfully makes these these themes simple and accessibly in order to potentially introduce and encourage children to engage with and start thinking about politics.
It felt almost like a kids adaptation of the recent BBC TV series Years and Years, which presented a near but not too distant altered reality. There is even an archetypal gran in this story and scenes set down the dinner table, that echo the BBC show.
Although derived as a kids show it is fair to acknowledge that The Border does still translate to adults too. In a brilliant interjection, the actors break out of character to go off script and open the forum out to the audience by initiating a discussion inviting the audience to share their experiences of voting influences.
It was very well executed and conducted by the actors who demonstrated a brilliant knowledge and understanding of politics.
The tour continues on tour travelling to:
The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre
On Wednesday afternoon I caught up with cabaret performer Stuart Saint for a special project I am working on for later this year.
In the evening we both attended the inaugural QX Cabaret Awards at Circa on Embankment.
We were greeted by model and dancer Liam Hargz who was on hand serving prosecco.
Hosted by drag queens Micheal Twaits and Son Of a Tutu, with performances by performers Asifa Lahore and Holestar the awards went to:
Best Variety Act
Winner: Rhys’s Pieces
Event of the Year
Winner: Man Up Final
Show of the Year
Winner: An Evening Without Kate Bush
Best Musical/Vocal Act
Winner: Le Gateau Chocolat
Winner: Jonny Woo
Winner: Son Of a Tutu
Best Comedy Act
Winner: Myra DuBois
Winner: Chanel No 5
Winner: Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Best Ongoing Cabaret
Winner: Bar Wotever
Winner: Drag Syndrome
Best Drag Queen
Winner: Mary Mac
Best Drag King
Winner: Adam All
Winner: The Cocoa Butter Club
Originality Award & Icon Award
Winner: David Hoyle
It was a brilliant evening, and was nice to catch up with producers Chris Clegg and Emma Taylor.
There was a moment where I stopped and looked around the room and thought wow. Having watched the Downtown Abbey movie last week which includes a storyline involving a closeted gay character being involved in a police raid of an illegal underground gay club, it was a remarkable sensation to look around the room at so many fabulous, unapologetically queer and proud people who can now celebrate who we are in this safe space without fear or persecution.
It was also a delight to see the the inspiring members of Drag Syndrome collect their award and celebrate the evening.
I raced off from the awards for another inaugural show, Jonny Labey’s Un-Boxed ReView at SingEasy
Established by Jonny with Benjamin Martin under their new company NinebyFive Productions, they are setting out to host a regular cabaret show that encompasses music, spoken word, tap jams, and stand up.
The Singeasy space continues to incubate these new cabaret shows with Benjamin now appointed as manager.
Their guests for this first show included Hussain Manawer, Gaia Aikman, Lois Morgan Gay, Patsy May, Max Kenny Herbert, Ally & Adele. With Darren Day and Adam Garcia.
I grew up having huge crushes on a Darren and Adam and have met both a few times over the past few years through the industry.
The evening was sold out with everybody getting behind this new night which I hope will continue to do well, their next show 16th October, to book:
On Thursday I was at the Bunker Theatre to watch We Anchor in Hope by Anna Jordan.
I had heard about the “incredible” transformation that the Bunker Theatre had inducted for this production by turning itself in to a bar. However, I’ll be honest when I walked in, I was underwhelmed by Zoe Hurwitz’s design.
Admittedly they have built a fully functioning bar on the stage, with the audience can order from as they arrive, but none the less it is simply just a piece of a bar built on to the stage, rather than the experience of walking in to a fully immersive pub that I was led to expect.
In reality, budget restraints have probably prevented a full transformation but attention to detail was sloppy, for example the mirror behind the bar was sourced from a Yorkshire brewery rather than an east end pub where this play is set.
To utilise the pub, as a tie in the Bunker Theatre will also be running Karaoke and pub quizzes in the space after certain performances.
We Anchor in Hope is directed by Chris Sonnex, the artistic director of The Bunker, and commissioned with the Royal Court as part of their Beyond the Court program.
It stars Valentine Hanson, Alex Jarrett, Daniel Kendrick, David Killick, and Alan Turkington, as characters brought together by a pub which is closing down. We join them on their last evening, as they tie up loose ends.
It’s a story that examines community when faced with redevelopment, a plight seen across the country. Although topical, it did feel a little generic, with the characters although depicted and performed well, feeling quite broad.
The realism comes from the play being based on interviews that Anna Jordan conducted in pubs around Pimlico, which introduce the obvious discussion about Brexit and Trump.
For me, the play picked up and paid off in the second act when the stories and emotional punch accumulated, and although it was reasonably enjoyable it didn’t really resonate fully with me.
It is on until 19th October
Chris Sonnex has also personally pledged to try and help any one who can’t afford to see the show because of class or unemployment or because of zero hours or low pay, and invites anyone in this position to get in touch with him to request complimentary tickets.
On Friday, I got to see two different examples of devised theatre. Devised theatre is where a script is created from collaborative and often improvised work created by the performers themselves.
The first play was called The Wild Flesh and was part of the Clapham Fringe festival for two performances at The Bread and Roses Theatre.
Devised and created by Hayley May Muirhead, Isobel Pilkington, Rebecca Hoodless, Sommy Echezona and Tashan Gilardi, who form the collective Wildly Theatre Company, this is a very topical play that examines the influences of social media on body image in young women.
There is a growing trend and a global market developing around the world of YouTube influencers. People who use social media to produce content and video diaries which attract sponsors and brands to pay them to use or promote their products.
Influencers can often reach a market of millions from their own bedrooms just by making a video and uploading it on their smart phone, and the bigger and more successful they become the more influential they are.
This can and has recently been seen to cause huge ramifications and sometimes back lash, when a misguided comment or action made by an influencer is then spun in to a frenzy.
In The Wild Flesh, the collective of young women who have created this play have used this as a starting point. The play opens with a video of a young perky naive girl who has made a video telling the audience some beauty tips. In the next video we see the same girl now in tears, distraught and traumatised having received a backlash from people criticising the damaging effects of her beauty tips. Then in a third video we see a new revitalised incarnation of the girl with immaculate hair having risen from the aftermath stronger. The play then follows this character who initiates a cult and begins to be hailed as a queen by an assortment of impressionable young women.
It’s a smart concept, that is very reflective of today’s culture and a story you would easily find in a series like Black Mirror.
Although the idea is good, the execution sadly wasn’t. The production does have some great elements particularly the atmospheric music, however predominantly the writing feels underdeveloped and inconsistent which is possibly due to it being devised by five voices rather than streamlined by one.
There are eye-rollingly bad elements, especially the cliched depiction of a detective who they even dress in a Columbo styled rain coat. Whether this was intended as a satire, it fell flat. The production also suffered from the use of doubling up roles, the distinctions between characters was messy and badly conveyed.
The acting generally across the cast was sadly weak, which you could argue might have been down to time restrictions or the fact that this was only their first performance. I can’t excuse that, particularly as I saw the rehearsed reading of Mercy the week before as part of the Clapham Fringe at this very same venue which showcased some of the finest acting and writing I have seen from work in development.
When it comes to characters they have devised and originated themselves, you would expect the performances to be a little more accomplished, and unfortunately they were very uneven.
Wildly Theatre Company have announced that The Wild Flesh will transfer to the Tristan Bates Theatre for a week long run in January.
This could be a great opportunity for the team to reflect and gather any feedback from the two performances at the Bread and Roses Theatre, and carry this forward into the new production. As I say the writing definitely needs some further development but their is definitely potential and promise for this piece.
They have also launched a kickstarter campaign to raise £2000 by 30th November.
If you would like to contribute towards this, here is the link: http://kck.st/2VfHgim
The Wild Flesh was only an hour long which meant I was able to travel across to Deptford to watch Half Life at the Albany.
Devised by Alyson Jones, Emily Eversden, Leon Smith, Mario Christofides, Sara Templeman who form the company Tangled Feet, this is a reflective set of monologues than look back over their twenty year history and friendship since meeting at university.
Some have continued to perform, some stopped, but all have returned for this special show which is presented as part of Age Against the Machine the Festival of Creative Ageing.
Tangled feet are a hands on team who say that they have always made theatre through participation, working with performers and non performers to workshop ideas.
In this presentation they use three sets of contributors, a young cast made up of Sami Choueli, Matilda Craig, Silas Evans, Hannah Maugham, Nathan Nidal; a group in their 20s, Luca Keaney, Shanez Pattni, Severine Simone, Carys Surbey, Adam Woods; and an elder cast Julie Baxter, Kurban Haji, Barbara Robinson, Helen Roberts, Ron Savill, Pauline White.
Directed by Nathan Curry and Kat Joyce they set out to ask:
How does our perspective change as we age?
How do we cope when we don’t know what’s coming next?
Are we always going to feel like we are making it up as we go along?
What do we hold onto?
What do we let go?
I’m turn each of the five core members of the company presented their story in their way, using physical theatre, movement, and large props and incorporating the ensemble members. They also effectively used a variety of music, and lighting.
It resulted in a truly original and authentic piece of theatre that was very honest and reflective.
As a man in my late thirties who, I found myself at the exact same age as these performers, asking myself the same questions, so a lot of it really resonated and was very moving. But what truly resonated was the sense of fun and play that is often lost as we grow older and once inhibitions set in. It was invigorating to watch all the performers and participants on stage letting go and enjoying themselves.
The team will be taking the show around the country next year, including:
ARC Stockton, Feb 7th, 8th 2020
Gulbenkian, Canterbury Feb 21st, 22nd 2020
On Saturday I had a very early start as I was filming a new series for the BBC and Apple TV called Alabama which stars Imelda Staunton and Rafe Spall. I then had a night in with my flat mates, eating pizzas and wearing face masks.
On Sunday I continued my weekend off and went to a carvery for Sunday lunch.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/KtaLsOeEbrU
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-37--Audio-e7mqe9