Post show blues

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Post show blues is a state of mind that the majority of theatre people have felt after a show they loved has finished its run. One feels empty, aimless, and often lonely once they’re no longer surrounded by a theatre family. It’s the inevitable crash after an incredible week or two of doing something you love and want to do forever, and the transition from being super busy all the time, to having to return to normal, often mundane life.

Having experienced post show blues several times after shows at school and university, I thought I was over it. After the last few shows I did last year, I was pretty fine, but this was very much down to specific reasons for each show (I went straight into rehearsing another show/I went straight into finishing my degree/I travelled to the Edinburgh Fringe the next day = three reasons why I didn’t really grieve for three different shows). As I mentioned previously, having a full time job not directly linked to theatre means that my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, so I seized the opportunity to work through my half term holiday and play in the pit band for a youth production of Fiddler on the Roof.

The band included several old uni friends, and despite my challenging piano part which took a little while to get to grips with, and the LONGEST ACT 1 EVER, I had a great time performing the show for the week. I always love the way that everyone in pit bands bonds due to being in such close proximity with each other for such a large amount of time, and we, of course, developed our own in jokes and critiques of the writing of the show! It was also pretty cool to be working such different hours to my usual job (8am-5pm) – on matinee days I was working from 2-10:30pm, which meant I could get my much needed lie ins.

And then it ended.  I had one day to sort myself out between the show ending and returning to work, and I was already in a bad mood! Cue a 6:30am start on the Monday morning and all I wanted to do was return to my working life of the previous week. I missed the people, I missed the proper theatre and the proper pit (a novelty for me having performed in a space at the side of the stage throughout uni!), and I missed the thrill of playing a show or two every day. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my full time job, but having one solitary week of *exciting* work and then returning to the real world was always going to be a bit of a shock! It was also just a bit of a surprise to be experiencing post show blues after such a long time  having foolishly assumed that I was over it… I am not!

Thankfully I have two more shows coming up soon: a school show, and the revival of YMT’s Jabberwocky at the Other Palace. I’ve always found that having another show (or two!) to look forward to helps dull the post show blues. I guess it’s a good thing that we get so invested in shows that we miss them terribly once they’re finished, but damn they can be difficult to get over! Bring on the next one.

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Backstage Tour at the National Theatre

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I’ll begin by saying that I LOVE going backstage at theatres. The few times I have done, I’ve been amazed by the winding corridors and seemingly maze-like routes behind and below the stage, as well as by the sheer quantity of space and rooms and goings on behind the scenes to make shows happen. So when I discovered that the National Theatre offers backstage tours most days, I seized the opportunity to buy tickets for myself and my boyfriend (the excuse being it was a birthday treat for him, but I knew we would enjoy it equally… but it was mostly for him. Honest).

We (and the other 18 people) were introduced to our tour guide Maya, who was so knowledgeable, engaging, and generally brilliant. We were given fetching orange high vis jackets to wear which was fun, and gave me a false sense of importance despite the fact that they said ‘National Theatre Backstage Tours’ on the back. Maya told us all a bit about the history of the building and when and why it was built – it’s much newer than I thought, with the building being opened in the 60s (despite the concept of a national theatre being in talks as early as the 19th century).

We entered one of the three auditoriums within the building: The Lyttelton Theatre. I was immediately struck by how modern the space is, but also by its simplicity. Maya explained that the whole idea of this particular theatre is to not let anything draw the audience’s eyes away from the action on stage, explaining the plain decor and the black box around the performance space. This theatre holds nearly 900 people, and it felt like such a nice intimate space from within the stalls.

Next we went into the main auditorium: The Olivier Theatre. Walking into the circle of this theatre was amazing – the view of the stage seemed to be perfect from every angle, and this is because the seating curves around the stage, somewhat hugging it, and the angle is exactly that of humans’ peripheral vision, meaning that the actors on stage can always see everyone in the audience. This space is where Follies was performed, and Macbeth is in technical rehearsals there right now. Sitting in the circle and looking down at the stage made me desperately want to see a show there!

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We reluctantly left The Olivier, and went backstage! We got to see several props from past productions, some of which never even made it on stage due to script and design changes. We also saw the carpentry workshop where many set pieces and props are made, and had a peek into some other workshops too. The National Theatre is a producing theatre, meaning that many sets and props are made backstage, which can be hugely beneficial when shows are rehearsing within the building, as things can be changed very quickly as the shows develop. It’s much like Theatre Royal Plymouth and TR2 in that sense, but on a much bigger scale!

We were taken back to the foyer and handed back our orange jackets, and said a big thank you to Maya (who was brilliant!). We discovered that there is a great theatre shop in the building, which I wish I’d found before because we spent at least an hour in there!

The backstage tour at the National Theatre was awesome, and I would recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in theatre. I learnt so much and now really want to see something in any one of the three theatres. I think it’s so great that a big producing theatre such as the National offers tours such as this, as it definitely sparked my love for theatre even more.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk 

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The view from the third floor of the National Theatre

Shows I worked on in 2017

As well as seeing a fair amount of theatre during 2017, I also managed to make some too! Well, musically direct some anyway. Over the last 3 years the majority of shows I’ve done have been through the musical theatre society at my (old!) uni, but this year I’ve managed to branch out a little bit more too. So here’s my year of shows!

Curtains – March 2017

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Credit: Charlie House Media

Curtains was my last ‘big’ uni show, and definitely my most challenging MDing experience yet! This was partly because I wasn’t just the MD – I had a named part, 3 lines, and a (very short) solo song. Throw into the mix that said part had an indeterminate European  a Russian accent, and this was quite a lot to take on! I also had my first experience of stick conducting a band, and while I relished the challenge, I definitely much prefer keys conducting. Or just keys playing. Anyway, the show turned out brilliantly despite significant levels of stress and I was very proud of everyone involved. #sop

Made in Dagenham – March-April 2017

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This was a show put on by a local amateur dramatics group, and I was ‘only’ in the band! It was great fun though – I played keys 2, and it was really refreshing to be involved in a show outside of uni (although most of the people in the band were uni people!). This was also my first paid pit band gig, so that was exciting… hopefully the first of many??!!

Little Puddle – May 2017

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My first original show! (Not written by me, I hasten to add). I was pleased to be able to help out on this crazy production as AMD, and I also played keys 2 (and a kazoo) in the band. It was so interesting to work on an original show and to be there throughout the process of lyric rewrites and spontaneous key changes!

The 24 Hour Show – June 2017

Every year, the musical theatre society at my old uni rehearses and puts on a show in just 24 hours for charity. I was on the prod team as a co MD, and we auditioned everyone and chose a cast… but didn’t tell the cast what the show was until 24 hours before the first performance. It was a totally mad and surreal experience, during which I got an hour of sleep (which was more than most!) and felt like I went a little bit insane. Nonetheless, we pulled it off, and it was a great show to finish my uni experience with!

Jabberwocky – August 2017

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Having played in the band for a Youth Music Theatre (YMT) production last year, I was so excited to do another one – but this time as the assistant musical director. Getting to work alongside industry professionals was so valuable, and it was such a rewarding (and exhausting!) 2 weeks of constant theatre making! The show involved 39 girls aged 11-17. This was also an original piece, so there were constantly changes being made to the score and script, and often these changes were a result of what the cast spontaneously did which was awesome. Performing the show at the Theatre Royal Margate (the oldest theatre in the country) was amazing too.

 

Now that I have a full time (non theatre based) job, my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, but I hopefully have at least 3 lined up for 2018 already!

4. Theatre MDing: what I’ve learned

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Prior to coming to uni, I didn’t really know what an MD was. I didn’t know that I’d maybe like to be one, and I certainly didn’t know that I’d go on to MD 8 shows during my three years of studying. So when I applied to be an AMD for my first show at uni (thank you, Drowsy Chaperone prod team of 2014/15), I still wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. I’d like to think that I now know a fair bit about MDing (musical directing), so here goes:

MDing is not just one job. It is many jobs.

The title ‘MD’ means that you direct the music of the show. So you tell the cast what to sing and how to sing it, and tell the band what to play and how to play it. But there’s much more to the role than just bossing people around! Most MDs also act as rehearsal pianists before the band comes in, and the conductor for when the band are involved. This means that the MD has to carry out two completely different roles between rehearsals and shows, which is TERRIFYING. When I had to conduct a show earlier this year, I felt so thoroughly unprepared because while I knew the music inside out, I was so used to playing it on the piano, not conducting it for a 12 piece band! Other jobs include leading vocal warm ups, making cuts and adding repeats, and liaising with other prod team members. So onto the next one…

The cast recording will almost definitely not match up with the score. Sorry.

There is nothing worse than coming into a rehearsal (a bit underprepared, oops), and realising that the choreographer has worked very very hard to make up a dance to suit a certain song or dance break on a cast recording… which doesn’t match up with the score in front of you. I’ve since learned to comb through the score before rehearsals even begin, but this is such a laborious task, and even if discrepancies are spotted, the MD then has to explain how many bars are added/missing, and often disappoint the choreographer in the process. I’m aware that this makes it sound like choreographers are hard to work with – they’re not and I’ve worked with some wonderful choreographers! It’s just very annoying when this happens. Argh.

Vocal warm ups will become anthems… and sometimes they will have dance routines.

Every rehearsal starts with a vocal warm up (except one time when I forgot), and these vary from the technical scaley ones to the funny tongue twister ones. I’m not really sure where we get these warm ups from – I’m pretty sure they’re sort of spread around in little MD circles as we impart our knowledge onto one another! ANYWAY, one of my good MD friends at uni introduced a warm up called Ba Bey Bee Bo, which *somehow* got its own dance. (Note: the choreographer was not involved and no bars were added or cut).

During breaks, everyone will flock to the piano.

Now, I don’t really get this one. Picture the scene: we’ve been rehearsing for a few hours, and the director announces that it’s lunch time. The MD leaves the piano stool and BAM – 5 cast members are crowded around the keyboard, desperate to get their hands on it and play some choons. Sometimes this results in an awesome jam session, but sometimes it just results in everyone else leaving the room!

No one else really understands your job.

Whereas most people know what a director does and how they do it, and what a choreographer does and how they do it, not very many know how MDing works. This seems to create an air of suspicion around MDs themselves, and I enjoy this. Not only does one get a fair amount of street cred from being able to play the piano, sometimes people seem a bit mystified by the ability to read music. It’s good fun, and sometimes makes it easier to gloss over mistakes…!

So yes, there are a few things I’ve learned through MDing 8 different shows while at uni. I have certainly learned a lot, and that’s very much down to all the other fantastic MDs I’ve worked with while doing these shows (Becky, Joe, Gem, Andy, Izzi, Ben, Dave, Robbie <3). There’s always more to learn, and I definitely hope to do more MDing in the future, but I’ll always check whether the cast recording matches up with the score first. (Disclaimer: it probably won’t).

3. ‘PVA glue is my best friend’ – an inside look at creating costumes at TR2

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As part of the Theatre Royal Plymouth bloggers’ scheme, I was invited to the wardrobe department at TR2, the theatre’s production and learning centre. We were shown around by Delia, the head of wardrobe, and we got to learn all sorts of things about how, where and why costumes are made, how much it costs, and even how to create realistic looking sick on clothes!

We were welcomed into the wardrobe workshop space, which was full of dummies wearing costumes, which I definitely mistook for real people a few times! Delia showed us some costumes from a production of Rebecca, which was at Theatre Royal Plymouth a couple of years ago, and explained that the costume budgets on shows vary hugely – from around £500 for small, local productions, up to £250,000 for high profile tours of well known musicals. On expensive shows just one garment can cost £1000 to make, especially when fabrics have to be made and printed specifically for a particular character in a particular show. Delia also explained that to work in wardrobe you have to be an all rounder – while individuals have their specialisms, they all need to be prepared to do a bit of everything – including doing the laundry, and even acting as a stand in dresser for performances at the theatre.

Next we went to the costume store: an enormous room full of thousands of garments. While the aisles and rails look crammed full and impossible to trawl through, the room is impeccably organised to make it easy to find any particular piece of costume required. Delia told us that they often hire out costumes to other organisations in the wider community, and that some garments are reused many times in different shows. She described them as ‘treasures I can reuse’, which I thought was a lovely way of putting it, because many of the pieces I saw were so versatile, and definitely ‘treasures’.

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We returned to the wardrobe workshop and Delia showed us some techniques to create special effects on fabric (her own specialism). She emphasised the attention to detail – like when creating fake mud to make clothes look dirty, she has to consider where the production is set, because the colour of mud in Yorkshire, for example, is quite different from the colour of Cornish mud! She used a dirty down spray to customise a pristine white T shirt, and showed us how to create fake blood by using a different spray, and also showed us some fake sick which was… interesting! She told us how different textures can be created using different substances, and stated that ‘PVA glue is my best friend’ due to the sheer amount of things it can be used to make! It was also interesting to find out that experimentation is a key part of creating the correct colour or texture, and that a lot of the wardrobe team’s work is trial and error.

Finally, we got the chance to have a go at creating some fake embroidery. This involved creating a piping bag full of acrylic paint and tracing over a print – it was harder than it sounds! The trick is to create a really small hole for the paint to come out of to maximise the precision when tracing over the lines. Then we filled in the gaps with paint and a brush which was much easier… GCSE art seems a long time ago! It was a really interesting and surprisingly therapeutic task to do and it certainly made us all be quiet for a while!

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Despite knowing very little about the business beforehand, I loved learning so much about the wardrobe department and costume making at TR2. I never realised how much detail goes into the costumes you see on stage, and the size of the costume store was simply immense. I’d like to thank Delia for showing us around and for being so helpful – I have a newfound appreciation for all that the wardrobe team do, as well as a newfound appreciation for PVA glue.

1. So I’ve graduated… what next?

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Having graduated with a BA in Music a couple of weeks ago, I’m constantly being faced with the question: ‘what next?’. Thankfully I now have a concrete answer to that question because as of September, I have a proper full time adult job! But before that begins I’ve got a very exciting, theatre filled August – hence my (potentially silly idea) to try and write a blog post every day this month.

I’ve come to realise that this summer is likely to be my final long summer holiday, so I figured I’d better make the most of it. Having filled June and July with volunteering and working in schools to help with musical theatre projects, London trips, job interviews and flat hunting, August sees even more travelling and theatre, as well as a big birthday! First of all I’m taking part in a Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT UK) project as an assistant musical director for their show Jabberwocky, which is to be performed at the Theatre Royal Margate from 18th-20th August (plug plug plug). Having done a project with the company last summer in a lesser role I’m so excited to be involved again and have even more creative input on a fantastic piece of original writing.

I’m also going to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time at the end of the month too. I’ve never been before, mostly due to the fact that I live in Devon, and Scotland is a very long way away from here! However, this year I’m going to deal with the lengthy travel times to go and see lots of theatre for a few days, including some shows which my friends from my (old) uni are taking up (writing ‘old’ uni felt weird. I haven’t had to do that before… *graduate crisis ensues*).

The end of August will see me coming back down to reality from the idyllic world of theatre and moving into my new house and preparing to start my proper job. It’s been and will continue to be a summer full of massive changes… I just find it a bit weird that your whole future is mapped out for you until this point: school, sixth form, uni… but then what? I’ve always been adamant that I didn’t want to move back home after uni, and although I have done that for the summer, it’s only temporary. However, when viewing places to live and being faced with adult talk about taxes and deposits and bills and pension schemes, a very small part of me wished I could escape it all and remain a well looked after child at home! But no, I love the freedom I’ve had at uni and I think continuing that immediately is the best thing for me to do – especially as my new job is close to the city I’ve lived in for the last 3 years.

So yes, expect many a blog this month. I’m excited to chronicle all my new experiences this summer and hope that no one gets too fed up with my incessant posting!

Get Ugly! – An interview with Tamar Broadbent

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt
Photo credit: Rebecca Pitt

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview comedy writer and performer Tamar Broadbent about her show, Get Ugly! which she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Here’s what she had to say about it:

Hi Tamar. Your one woman show Get Ugly is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Could you tell me a bit about the show?

Get Ugly is a musical comedy about navigating newly single life after a break-up, with songs and stories about weird online dates, dodging hipsters, envying gym girls, freaking out about STDs and desperately trying to keep body hair under control. It’s about learning how to be a strong, independent woman (after figuring out what that actually means) and re-discovering your self-confidence after feeling (emotionally) like you’ve fallen bum-first in a dirty puddle.

How did the show’s premise come about? How much of it is rooted in personal experience?

 It’s all inspired by autobiographical events. When funny things happen that I believe are noteworthy, I try to turn them into songs. If they’re not a whole song, I try to turn them into a joke. For me it’s all about transforming life into lolz, trauma into un-tempo catchy tunes and a relatable lesson learned into something an audience can enjoy for an hour.

You’ve taken the show to Australia – how has the show been received so far by audiences across the globe?

At the Perth Fringe Festival earlier this year, Get Ugly was nominated for Best Comedy Show, which was incredibly exciting and made me spend ages dancing by myself on a train platform. I’ve also performed the show in Prague and Germany where it went down really well. I think certain things are universal… like heartbreak and vaginas.

How does it feel to be performing your own self written show at the largest arts festival in the world?

 Edinburgh is my favourite place in the world. I know it like the back of my foot – sort of and some bits of it still surprise me, but I’ve performed at the festival for five years running and it feels like my home away from home. To be performing this show there, having taken it across the globe and back, feels like what I’ve been excitedly waiting to do for ages.

Have you made any changes to the show for this year’s stint in Edinburgh?

I’ve added two new songs and am saying a lot of things I haven’t previously said (that makes it sound like they’re ground-breaking things – they’re not. Perhaps compost-breaking). The whole thing’s had a re-vamp and is finally where I feel I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve very proud of the show and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

What is it like performing a one woman show every night? Does it get tiring being the solo performer?

It of course requires you to be in good shape (she says eating pizza and drinking wine) but I find performing a show that you love can give you more energy not less. I once did a student play at the Fringe that I hated and afterwards I slept until December. Now – I am very much alive and awake and not at all addicted to caffeine (stop shaking, Tamar!).

What do you think Get Ugly can teach audiences about 21st century female empowerment?

 I’m not a fan of the word ‘teach’ because I’m not sure I’m 100% qualified to impart wisdom when I still tie my shoelaces using the bunny ears method. However, I hope that Get Ugly will ‘show’ the audience that we all go through those ‘ugly’ bits of life that we hope people will never find out about, that you never see in a perfectly filtered Instagram existence. That we all have awkward, mortifying moments in life and that they don’t define us – that it’s possible to celebrate them and point and laugh at them and even turn them into songs!

I would love the show to teach that being bullied by the media, others and ourselves about how beautiful we think we are or are not is a miserable waste of time. Like many girls I grew up believing that beauty was value, and I allowed my sense of self-worth to be affected by how ‘attractive’ I thought I was, and especially how ‘attractive’ I thought other people (namely, boys) thought I was. Performing comedy was the first thing that really helped me get away from this mode of thinking and it’s something I wish I could make the teenage girls believe who I now see obsessively watching make-up tutorials on YouTube.

The show’s not overtly about this – I wanted to explore these issues and especially the relationship between appearance and female self-confidence whilst first and foremost telling a very real, human story about heartbreak and loss and, most importantly, making people laugh.

What is your favourite moment in the show and why?

At the moment, it’s a new song I’ve just added which involves an audience member that if you want to find out about you will have to come and see the show (!). It’s crazy and absurd and I love it (the audience seem to as well, which is a real plus!). My favourite moment of the show changes every day though, because the show changes every day.

Have you got any funny stories or mishaps that have happened during performances that you can tell me about?

In Australia, a guy who I’d gotten up on stage with me said, on mic, ‘there’s lipstick on your teeth, that’s why everyone’s laughing at you’. I called him a bearded c**t and we low-fived. It was all very good natured, but the irony didn’t escape me that I performed the rest of a show about how we shouldn’t care so much what we look like whilst trying after every other line to subtly tongue away a non-existent stain from my two front teeth, all the time crying on the inside.

Where would you like to take Get Ugly next?

America. Canada. Hull. Anywhere that will have me!

 Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly will be playing at Underbelly Med Quad (Clover), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG from Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2017 (not 14th) at 17:30.

Backstage tour: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

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Credit: Becca Pettit

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is a unique piece of theatre which has been subject to great critical acclaim since it first opened at the Cottesloe Theatre in 2012. Now embarking on its second UK tour, audiences all over the country are being swept up in Christopher Boone’s story. I was invited on a backstage tour of the show at Theatre Royal Plymouth along with five other bloggers to learn more about the play and to get a closer look at the props and set. We were met by Stew, the company manager, who talked us through the different aspects of the show and opened our eyes to how much detail has gone into creating this production.

We started by looking at the towering set, and Stew explained that it takes 6 hours to get it into the theatre, and 12 hours to put it all together and make it function. We saw the versatile white boxes which are used in various ways throughout the show, as suitcases, train seats, and even a toilet! Then we moved on to looking at the props, starting with Wellington, the four legged victim of the story, and I was amazed at the gruesome detail that been applied to the dog, as well as the detail on other set pieces, such as the model of Big Ben and the tiny houses. Stew told us that ‘Curious is all about detail’, and I saw first-hand that this is certainly true.

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Then it was time to go on stage! The floor is covered in tiny squares (892 to be exact), and the floor and three walls are all covered in grids. Although the set may look simple at first, there are eight projectors used in the show which really enhance the visual aspect, and LED lights are used to inject different colours and moods into various scenes. The grid squares are labelled with letters and numbers around the sides, and Stew told us that the directors used these squares during the rehearsal process to help with the precision of the blocking – for example, an actor would be instructed to stand in box A7 for a certain scene. I found it really interesting that a show so based in logic and maths is blocked in such a mathematical way – and this must play a part in enhancing the performance. As Stew told us, ‘it’s all grid work’.

Understandably, there are many people working on Curious to ensure that it runs smoothly for all 8 performances a week. There are 10 cast members in the show, plus an alternate Christopher, and 4 understudies. There are two Christophers because it is such a demanding role – the actor portraying him never leaves the stage except during the interval. There are also 16 crew members, unusually outnumbering the cast number! These numbers prove how technical the show is, and how although it has a small cast size, it requires many people working hard backstage to make the show happen. Stew said that audiences often forget that Curious is a play, because it is so much more than a play – perhaps even a ‘play with the infrastructure of a musical’. Although the scale of the set is so big, the intense detail of the props means that the performance still feels intimate and relatable.

A primary aim of the show is to introduce the audience to Christopher’s world. Stew told us that this is why the set is effectively a box, because this box represents his mind. We also learned about the music for the show, which is all based around prime numbers – for example, at the start of the show a drum rhythm is heard, and the accents are on beats 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 (the first prime numbers). This makes the audience subconsciously inhabit Christopher’s world because he adores maths, and prime numbers – so it makes sense that the background music would be based around them too. I find this incredibly clever, and again, it’s something that the audience would not pick up on, making it another example of the show’s attention to detail.

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The backstage tour gave me and the other bloggers an invaluable insight into the world of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The scale of the set and detail of the props is astounding, and it is clear that so much thought has been put into every tiny aspect of this production to make it unique and authentic. So many individuals work hard to make this show as good as it can possibly be, and I can’t wait for more audiences around the UK to experience this extraordinary piece of theatre.

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time runs at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 1st July. 

Review – School of Rock – New London Theatre, 24/06/17

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Having adored the film growing up, and being a massive Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, I was extremely excited and intrigued to watch School of Rock (the musical) at the New London Theatre. As the show presented a rather different subject matter (and indeed musical style) for the composer to tackle, I was interested to see what he and the rest of the creative team had come up with. And amazingly, this production manages to tick all the boxes, while also striking the perfect balance between remaining loyal to the original subject matter and bringing something new to the story – a combination which many musical adaptations struggle to achieve.

Naturally, the first thing that springs to mind about School of Rock is the fact that a sizable portion of the cast is made up of child performers, some of whom have to be quadruple threats (meaning that they are equally talented at singing, acting, dancing and playing a musical instrument). Add on the fact that the lead actor playing Dewey Finn needs impeccable guitar skills as well, and this must be a tricky show to cast.

Stephen Leask portrayed Dewey Finn at this performance, and he is absolutely incredible. He inhabits the character so well, and he very much manages to make the role his own. His introductory song ‘When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock’ is energetic and brilliantly executed, introducing the audience to his lively, spontaneous character. I also enjoyed his interactions with the children, as well as with Ned (played by Oliver Jackson) and Rosalie Mullins (Florence Andrews).

Three teams of 13 children each perform a portion of the shows each week, and they are surely some of the most talented young people in the West End right now. I adore Caoimhe Judd’s performance as Summer – her characterisation is impeccable and hilarious, and she leads the act 2 opener ‘Time to Play’ with great conviction. Special mentions must also go to Jude Harper-Wrobel as Freddy, Jack Goodacre as Zack, James Lawson as Lawrence and Selma Hansen as Katie, who all perform on their respective rock instruments live at every performance. The children performed brilliantly as a unit too, with the song ‘If Only You Would Listen’ being a particular emotional highlight.

The rest of the cast give great performances too – Florence Andrews’ rendition of Miss Mullins’ heartfelt song ‘Where Did the Rock Go?’ is another musical moment to remember, and the ensemble do well to create contrasting environments of both a gaggle of posh, pushy parents, and a set of strict, education-loving teachers in the staffroom. The ‘grown up band’ must also be acknowledged for accompanying Lloyd Webber’s exciting score when the children are otherwise occupied. I absolutely adored watching the band members hanging over the edge of the suspended band ‘pit’ to encourage the children during ‘Teacher’s Pet’ – they had been made redundant by this point by the kids actually playing their rock instruments live!

One of the main things that makes School of Rock a brilliant piece of art independent of the film is the fact that the creative team have added other dimensions to the writing. In this musical adaptation the audience gets a much larger insight into the lives and thoughts of the children, and these are explored through both speech and song. So while School of Rock may draw audiences in through its name and association with the original material, it allows everyone to leave with a slightly different perspective on the story and characters.

School of Rock is one of the most exciting, energetic and innovative pieces of theatre in the West End right now. Despite some reservations from the public and the media, Lloyd Webber has written a score which totally delivers, providing classic rock tunes as well as emotional ballads. The children do an astounding job (especially those who play instruments!) and Stephen Leask leads the company with great conviction, creating a hugely likable character from the off. The show combines undeniable talent with great fun, and it really is a show for everyone – whether you’ve seen the film or not.

My watchable and listenable dissertation

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During my final year at university, I’ve been bombarded with questions about my degree, and also what on earth I intend to do once it’s finished. My answer to the latter tends to be a mumbled ‘I’m not sure yet… I have a few ideas… it’s too early to start looking really’ until my interrogator realises that enquiring about a third year’s future plans is not a particularly good idea. However, the other most frequently asked question is about my dissertation, which is usually met with looks of surprise once I announce that I’m not actually required to do one, and instead explain that I’ll be playing a 45 minute long piano recital. Trust me, it’s a pretty good conversation starter, and hopefully it’s a pretty good blog starter too.

Music is a rather unique degree subject – final year students are required to take one double module, which can be either a dissertation, a large composition, or a 45 minute performance recital. Seeing as many music students’ main strengths lie in the practical aspects of music rather than the academic study of it, it makes sense to offer alternatives to a dissertation. I chose my repertoire in September, selecting pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel, and consequently practised them for eight months until my recital in May. That sounds like a long time, and it really was! There were times when I felt thoroughly bored of my pieces, but then I’d consider a new concept which could totally revamp my performance. It felt like my entire year was leading up to recital day.

However, performing my own recital wasn’t the only responsibility I had that day. My friend and I agreed to page turn for each other’s recitals, and his was at 2pm, a few hours before my own at 6:30. Now, the role of the page turner is hugely underrated. All you have to do is sit beside the pianist and turn the pages of their music that they are unable to turn themselves, due to their hands being understandably preoccupied. But the knowledge that you could sabotage someone else’s performance through vacantly forgetting to turn a page at the correct time is SO UNBELIEVABLY STRESSFUL. Anyway, I paid full attention to this recital meaning that it thankfully went very smoothly.

So, with one task over it was time for me to start preparing for my own recital. It took place at Turner Sims Concert Hall, which is a brilliant venue, and I feel privileged every time I get to perform there. I managed to practice on the grand piano prior to my performance, which was great preparation. Unlike other instrumentalists who carry their own familiar instrument around with them to perform on, pianists have to be prepared to adapt to whatever piano is in the performance venue, which can be a challenge when you’re used to practising on a very different instrument.

Suddenly, the nerves kicked in. Half of me wanted to perform immediately to get it over with, but half of me never wanted 6:30 to arrive! Upon arrival at Turner Sims I handed the exam marshal my paperwork and paced around the green room. The most nerve-wracking bit was waiting behind the door to walk on stage, but as soon as I made my entrance, I was greeted by the view of around 25 of my friends (and my mum!) in the audience applauding me, and I was thrilled to have their support. I sat down at the piano and began to perform. I played the pieces pretty much as well as I could have done, although I started to get a bit tired during the final two – 45 minutes is a very long time to play solo for. I played the final chord with a flourish, bowed, and walked off stage with a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I’d done it! I’d performed the equivalent of a dissertation.

Performing my final piano recital was one of the most terrifying yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. It was definitely thrilling, but I’m not in a particular hurry to do it again any time soon, especially given the amount of preparation required and how much stamina I had to build up to do it. I learned so much from studying my repertoire in detail, and my recital day will definitely stick in my mind as one of the most significant days of my uni career. And, although I now have a concrete answer to ‘did you do a dissertation?’, I’ll still have to explain to anyone who asks that l have no idea what I’m going to do once I graduate.