Sophia goes Backstage! at Lyme Youth Theatre’s Musical: Bedbug

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Recycled cardboard boxes played a major role in the Lyme Youth Theatre production of Bedbug the Musical, but it was the enthusiasm of the young performers that really triumphed.

Mechanic Ivan Varlet played by Joe Urquhart, set the scene as he discarded his proletariat life of manual labour in favour of the trappings of the bourgeois and sent his girlfriend Zoya, played by Roisin Linnett, packing in favour of the hairdresser Elzevir, played by Eleanor Hills,

“I have dis-invented him…our former love has been liquidated. I have fought for the good life and won”

The story unfolds; the wedding, the fight, the fire eventually extinguished by drunken firemen then 50 years later and the un-freezing of Ivan. Which is when we meet the bedbug that had been living on Ivan; and it is in this creature that Ivan finds solace as he faces the new Russia and a much aged Zoya!

“Here’s a little animal friend I recognise, a bed bug, hello bed bug”

But what was it that made this production so top notch? Was it the brilliant acting, the perfectly delivered dialogue, the fantastic singing or perhaps the clever use of cardboard boxes?

For me it was the very obvious enthusiasm and love of taking part and despite just one rehearsal per week, their professionalism and talent was unmistakable.

But what did the performers think?

Goleg, the life stylist, played by 17 year old Hope Mortimor,

“I didn’t know anybody when I came here but everyone was really welcoming and I loved it and 100% I’d do it again. I’m really going to miss it.”

 Zoya, Ivan’s girlfriend, played by Roisin Linnett,

“I didn’t think it would be as funny as it is, I struggle to do the serious stuff and I enjoyed the singing.”

And the directors from National Theatre Connections were equally impressed,

“You put a smile on my face, you brought it to life and seeing the support you give each other is wonderful.”

Next stop, Theatre Royal Bath!

Thanks Sophia, thanks LYT!

Sophia goes Backstage! at Jazz in the Bar

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Philip Clouts was born in South Africa and enjoyed a childhood of surround-sound Cape jazz that has been a big musical influence in his life, whilst Brummie Pete Canter lived in London for 11 years and worked with Soho’s underprivileged children; so it made perfect sense when they told me,

“Jazz is our common language”

And the intimate friendly Marine Bar on a Mothering Sunday afternoon was the perfect place to enjoy the duo’s musical medley.

It was Philip who organised this gig and Pete chose the pieces,

“I went through my big fat book of tunes I’ve played over the years” and it truly is a bulging book of music. Except not the sort of sheet music I am used to with crotchets and quavers riding the staff; with jazz it’s all about improvisation based on a set of chords.

They started with Nostalgia in Time Square that transported me to that busy American city but on a lazy Sunday afternoon when the hustle and bustle have been replaced with a relaxing stroll.

The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers put me on a grassy bank next to a stream, the sunshine glinting on the water; although I suspect my vision is slightly off target given the rather unusual title!

Each piece, including Joyce’s Samba and Bluesette written by harmonica player Toots Thielemans, effortlessly conjured up a different image for me but watching Pete in particular who played the alto, tenor and soprano sax, those soothing melodies required a lot of energy on his part!

Philip and Pete also compose music, combining innovation with originality,

“We write our own pieces, exploring the boundaries of what people consider to be jazz”

And that’s exactly what it did for me, taking me off to places I may never go except through the medium of jazz.

Philip will be performing this weekend at St Peter’s Church Eype raising money for the Tusk Trust charity and Pete can be seen monthly at the Exeter Phoenix.

Thanks Sophia, thanks Philip and Peter! More Backstage! next week…

Sophia goes Backstage! at Macbeth

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“Fair is foul…foul is fair”

The whisper soon became a shout as Troels Hagen and Paul O’Mahony whipped the audience into a frenzy with the opening scene of their ‘Out of Chaos’ 80 minute production of Macbeth.

“Let’s give it up for Macbeth!”

The young audience from the Sir John Colfox School, Bridport and Wadham School, Crewkerne were soon being swept along in the high octane two man performance of the 16+ characters in this famous Shakespeare play.

From the cue cards they stuck in front of the audience’s noses to hauling someone up onto the stage shouting “to bed, to bed” it was a non-stop full on show.

The rapid-fire Q&A session afterwards said it all:

How often do you rehearse?

For this particular show we had two weeks then a show in Birmingham then another week before coming here, but it had to fit in round Troels who is working on another show.

Why did you want to turn it into a two man play?

We wanted to work with an existing text and tackle Shakespeare and the number of relationships in Macbeth gave us the extreme challenge we were looking for.

How many people did it take to put this show together?

There’s a core team of five: director Mike Tweddle, music & sound Phil Ward, set & lighting Claire Browne, Troels and myself.

Do you ever get worried before coming on stage?

Yes, especially when it’s something new and there are always different challenges at each venue; whether it’s a simple hall or proper theatre. We have to work out how and when to move so we don’t bump into each other!

Kyre O’Regan and Saskia Riccard from Wadham School stopped to chat with me;

“It was the emotion in their voices and the way they changed into different characters so quickly plus how they managed to pack it all in. Macbeth was our favourite, he was played really well!”

—Thanks Sophia, Thanks for a fantastic two shows, to our two-man Macbeth.—

Sophia goes Backstage! with folk musicians Adam and Saskia

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“I listen to plenty of recorded music so it makes a nice change to listen to it live and this is something a bit different.”

Said Joseph Starchild from Bridport who I had never met before, but sitting in the Marine Bar with its panoramic view and sumptuously comfortable sofa alongside other guests here to enjoy the Lunchtime Concert, it felt like I was among good friends as we enjoyed the witty repartee and introduction from Tracey West of Magic Oxygen Books,

“The sun is shining which puts me one step closer to wearing my shorts!”

This informal concert kicked off with Adam Sweet singing At Times Like This taken from his debut album Small Town Thinking. All of us were immediately captivated by his brilliant guitar playing and melodic voice.

His roots are set in classic rock including Hendrix and Deep Purple, but with the help of singer songwriter Steve Black, Adam started to write his own songs including one about a trip abroad,

“I went to Athens and had a few hours to kill so I went into a bar. Sadly I was scammed.”

And a new hit called Albertine.

About life and love, his performance was a medley of wistful lyrics and great folk music that left the audience wanting more.

Saskia’s first song In Time was inspired by a Joan Baez hit Diamonds in Rust and it was this heart-on-your-sleeve style that soon drew in the audience as Saskia encouraged us to join in with the chorus,

“I like it when people join in, even if it’s just humming.”

And like Adam, her songs are about the trials and tribulations of life including Call on Spring that she wrote when her six year old sister was seriously ill.

They rounded off with a duet of the Fleetwood Mac hit Dreams Chords and an audience who would gladly have drifted along comfortably with the late afternoon into evening listening to their wonderful guitar playing and singing.

—–

Thanks Sophia, thanks Adam and Saskia! More from Backstage! next week…

Sophia Backstage! with R&D company Concert Theatre

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to music

An-Ting Chang is on a mission; to create hybrid theatre, combining classical music with drama, she wants the performance to speak to the audience not just via the actors’ dialogue but also the music,

“I hear music as a language and I want to extend classical music to a larger audience.”

And where better to experiment than our renowned R&D programme.

My first meeting with the team of five; director An-Ting, lighting and set designer Jing Wang, pianist Diana Brekalo and actors Jessica Macdonald and Rory Potts was not the most auspicious as I vied for their attention whilst they thrashed out their ideas; I eventually left them in peace with heightened curiosity as to how it was all going to pan out but at least I was able to enjoy Diana’s recital of Brahms Rhapsody Op. 79

So as I took my front row seat, along with the Bridport Library Reading Group whose book of choice just happened to be The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I wondered what might be in store.

“I like Brontë’s book very much but we can do what we want and I want to focus on a 19th century woman wanting to be an artist for a living not a hobby” said An-Ting.

Divided into five segments, each having a pre-narrative explaining what was coming next; the first cleverly performed by Jessica portraying Helen’s son Arthur Jr as a typically precocious nose-picking little boy!

“I had the right background for this performance.”

Rory’s portrayal of adulterous husband Arthur Huntingdon was despicably precise but in striking contrast is his volte-face into the love struck Gilbert that was equally sincere.

“This was a good opportunity to do something I was pretty sure I would like.”

Each scene is accompanied by Diana’s excellent piano playing including music by Brahms, Scriabin and Mozart, although it was occasionally difficult to hear some of the dialogue above the piano.

I greatly enjoyed the acting and the piano playing and agree music is indeed a language, but, perhaps of its own?

Thanks Sophia! More next week…