Sophia goes Backstage! with Luke Brown’s Princess R&D

Luke Brown

You need a strong stomach to work with Luke Brown; also strong arms, legs, in fact the workout they did each morning was not so much a warm-up exercise as a foot-drill for soldiers!

Princess takes you on a journey of love from the first nerve-racking date to the final break-up; the title is the name Luke gave his mother (behind her back) and it is his emotionally turbulent childhood that led him to produce this show.

“It’s an autobiographical exploration about the things I’ve seen and witnessed. The lack of a mother’s love during my childhood has affected my love as an adult.”

Combining gymnastics, dance, drama and improvisation, the choreography Luke has devised emulates the often choppy waters of relationships,

“The show is about the beauty and brutality of true love, the ability to love connects the human race, it is something that everyone would feel at some point.”

This was the first time the performers Amy Robertson, Kyle Lawson and Andrzej Kamienski had met, but watching them you’d think they’d been working together for weeks, especially one scene when they were nudging each other out of the way to recall a memory,

“It seemed when you complimented me that your smile was only an outline.”

“When you told me, at least you knew I had a heart because you broke it.”

We saw three chapters; the first performed by Kyle and Andrzej showed the excitement of new love then on to the demise of the relationship.

We didn’t see the boxing ring scene or Amy in the wedding dress and unicorn head, “I have a headful of dreams but the reality is very different” but the message of love, how the seed is planted in young people and the different ways it grows resounded with the audience but for me it was the athletic performance and simultaneous narration that explained Luke’s theory that…

 “The world of love is random”


Thanks Sophia! Thanks to Luke Brown and his company. More Backstage! next week…

Sophia goes Backstage! at the Marine Music Hall Dinner


It was the gathering of the great and the good from the chimney sweep and the academic to the can-can dancer and the aristocrat; such was the pull of the Marine’s invitation to enjoy an evening of music, dining and award-winning entertainment.

Everyone embraced the idea of dress to impress from top hat and tails to the striking crispness of a dinner jacket and Edwardian suffragettes to the saucy fishnet tights of the music hall girls and with the back drop of the sun setting on Golden Cap, everyone enjoyed the pre-dinner drinks whilst being entertained by the internationally renowned Slightly Fat Features and their Peepo Show along with the world’s first cinematic perambulator.

It was a job to decide who to talk to, I would have happily chatted to every single guest but that would have filled a book not a blog; for instance there was Maralyn and Malcolm Hinxman who arrived in a minibus with a group of 16 from Charmouth, and from Plymouth were the chimney sweep Hambley brothers, Mike and Mark,

“We’re hoping to audition for Bert from Mary Poppins”, accompanied by their suffragette wives Sue and Linda.

And to keep it authentic, Karen, Sally, Debbie and Sarah from Suffolk googled traditional Edwardian names and for the evening they were called Edna, Aggie, Winnie and Fanny. This was their first visit to the Marine but they all agreed it would be the first of many!

Jeremy and Sue Burrows from Sussex, looking the epitome of glamour, told me

“We are looking forward to some fun and daftness!”

By the time I made my way into the auditorium that had been transformed into a grand theatrical dining room, 101 guests were being waited on hand on foot by the team of volunteer waiting staff.

The raffle caused great excitement and I was delighted to see Sue the suffragette win a bottle of Champagne and the lucky winner of the 1st prize, a trip to the Badminton Horse Trials was won by Nathalie Allan.

Even the delayed arrival of the pie and mash main course did nothing to dampen their spirits, the atmosphere was convivial and everyone was smiling. Without question the evening was a resounding success, well done to all!

More photos from this fantastic event to follow on the Backstage! blog…

Sophia is Backstage! with The Drive R&D


“I’m not going to apologise for cleaning the fridge.”

Now my paranoia knows no bounds so when I heard Lynne Forbes, Co-Artistic Director of Angel Exit Theatre saying this to the other co-director Tamsin Fessey I discretely dashed over to the theatre fridge fearing the worst.

Such was their convincing acting as they practiced their lines walking round the theatre, but I was relieved to discover it was an important line in their performance.

The Drive has been on hold due to their other show Otto and the Robin, along with a trip to Denmark with the Marine’s ex-theatrical director Tim Bell, but now it’s back on the agenda,

“With the R&D show coming up it was good to galvanize ideas again, we want to find a physical and theatrical language and see what we can do within the framework” said Lynne.

A story of a friendship between two women; regrets, grief, loss and memories of relationships they have had with other female friends; you soon work out the two completely different characters, one of them is pretty relaxed about life but the other standoffish and reluctant to talk.

But it is during the drive itself and later in the hotel when some recognisable human behaviour patterns start to emerge; those awkward moments when we let our guard down after we’ve had one too many and then losing our temper in an explosion of anger, and it is this audience awareness that Lynne and Tamsin are hoping to draw on.

They have also deliberately kept the props to the minimum combining the tech with their acting so the audience focus on the performers,

“We are aiming to have a show that doesn’t have much kit and finding interesting ways the actors can control and project the imaging.”

There was certainly plenty of positive audience feedback so I look forward to hearing more about the theatrical journey of ‘The Drive’ and in the meantime we’ll keep an eye on the fridge!

Sophia goes Backstage! at the Vintage and Handmade Fair on Sunday

art art

Vintage & Handmade in Lyme Regis

The love of vintage is thriving across the generations and where better to enjoy a taste of this than the Marine Theatre; itself having enjoyed the vibrancy and positivity of that post war era and on through the 1950s and 60s before the psychedelic 70s nudged this richly colourful age temporarily to one side.

When I arrived at the Vintage & Handmade Fair there was already a long queue of people waiting to get in, from grannies who would be only too familiar with the period, mums and dads and children. Whether it was nostalgia, curiosity or looking for something a bit special, there was something for everyone.

Margaret Parker from St Albans, Hertfordshire was visiting Lyme Regis for the week, “I’m always on the look-out for vintage fairs, I love its quirkiness.”

To the gentle sound of harp music being played in the background, visitors were taking their time looking at the different stalls that sold a rich variety of retro merchandise including dress patterns from Lyme Regis based Sew La Di Da Vintage to make the classic swing skirt, or jewellery from Angela Cooper and gorgeous lace and original antique bridal wear from Days of Grace. There were also handcrafted greetings cards by Papercut Oddities and handmade sweets by Cheeki.

An age of striking colours, clean cuts and bold floral patterns were the order of the day and in that The Darling Buds of May spirit there was a definite feel-good factor, made all the more special by a few visitors who took their love of the style one step further.

18 year old Sophie Bye loves the era, “I grew up surrounded by vintage cars and I like to look individual and stand out.”

So it may have had its heyday over half a century ago but there’s no doubt the vintage era is alive and well in Lyme Regis and continues to be enjoyed by all generations.

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Thanks Sophia!


Sophia is Backstage! at Stig of the Dump



Stig of the Dump in Lyme Regis

There were no mexican waves when I first watched ‘Stig of the Dump’ years ago (I don’t think they’d even been invented then), but the London Contemporary Theatre production of this classic story soon had the audience on their feet with their hands in the air.

Even before the play started the performers were determined to make sure everyone felt they were an integral part of the performance, as Grandma chatted away to the audience on one side of the auditorium and on the other side was Barney who struck up a conversation with some children after moaning about how bored he was!

The story unfolds with a few seemingly ad hoc lines thrown in,

“Is that in the script?” Grandad asks.

And with a song or two for good measure, there was plenty to hold the attention of the young audience; of particular curiosity was the brilliant puppetry that was Stig.

The picture colouring during the interval added a whole new dimension as the finished artwork was hung up on the stage for everyone to see, much to the delight of the children who had plenty to say about the performance!

Eight year old Rhona was there with her grandma,

“I like it because it has a small cast so I can keep up with what’s going on and I thought the arguing was funny, it’s just the same as when I argue with my friends.”

Millie who is seven really enjoyed it and especially the puppet Stig who she thought was very funny and her five year old brother Charlie liked the squabbling (I can see a trend developing here!)

For me it was the exceptional stage set, and like Millie, I enjoyed the puppetry. The recommended age group is 6+ but personally I think the ideal age bracket is 4 – 8 years old, but then we all love the magic of live theatre don’t we!

Thanks Sophia, and thanks to the cast and crew of Stig of the Dump. More Backstage! next week…

Sophia is Backstage! with KiteHigh


KiteHigh Theatre enjoy our unrestricted R&D workspace

Little Princess; makes you think of pink frills and taffeta doesn’t it, but if you watched the KiteHigh Theatre production of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story, you would have enjoyed so much more. Because Abigail Pickard Price, Artistic Director and founder of KiteHigh wanted to explore the feasibility of turning this elaborate story and blockbuster film into a stage production that would encapsulate the important elements of the story whilst adding a few of their own ideas.

“I love the story and I’ve wanted to do it for ages but I wondered if I was mad because it’s a really big story; but we’ve not restricted ourselves and everyone reassured me I wasn’t mad!” said Abi.

And that’s what the ‘Marine Theatre R&D’ week is all about; unrestricted thought processes. How to portray the vastness of Miss Minchin’s boarding school for instance; with two large wooden frames on wheels representing the many doors and corridors, from the scullery where Becky the lowly maid worked all the way up to the attic where Sara was made to sleep following the death of her father that left her penniless and the mean headmistress quickly points out her new station in life,

“You are like Becky, you must work for a living. If you make yourself useful I may let you stay here.”

But it is the audience who are going to be the driving force in this production,

“We will use this week to work out who is our future audience; can this appeal to everyone?”

If the reaction from their young audience was anything to go by, then they are definitely on the right track, a group of local scouts, mostly boys, liked the way they had represented the different scenes including the attic room windows and were also keen to learn more about the production process.

Whilst not guaranteed, let’s hope A Little Princess will soon find the support it needs to take it to the next stage…hopefully one near you very soon!

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Thanks Sophia, and we hope to see you again soon, KiteHigh!

Sophia goes Backstage! with Peter and the Wolf (and me)


Peter and the Wolf in Zimbabwe

Peter and the Wolf is one of those school music lesson stalwarts; you know just what you’re getting, unless that is, you watch Nick Young’s production where he has made a few additions and I’m not just talking about the title of Peter and the Wolf (and me) because you will also hear about Zimbabwe, a disused industrial site cum out-of-bounds playground and an alcoholic.

Nick had a turbulent childhood living in South Africa and Zimbabwe, not just because of apartheid and his mixed race heritage, but it seems his young life was littered with beatings, uncertainty and frustration and it is this that manifests itself in his production.

“At times I asked myself if I should even bother to do Peter…it was an exercise in frustration”

Having started work on this play five years ago, whilst the dark sinister side of the original story remains, he tells me his latest production is radically different,

“It’s still about a little boy who wants adventure and isn’t prepared for it but it’s also a leaner more effective piece of story-telling”

Omer Makessa is from Martinique and plays the musical accompaniment creating the contrasts of mood, and when the drunken father bullies his small son, for me it was the way Nick morphed into the towering threat of an angry dad then shrunk back into the small weaker boy that triggered my emotion.

His recreation of his old classroom cleverly portrays the conversation between his teacher and classmates where he tells them his version of the story of Peter and the Wolf and it is this dual story-telling of Nick’s autobiography where the parallels started to emerge.

Peter and the Wolf (and me) has certainly retained that dark and disturbing tale of the original, however I can’t help but wonder if this play was less about Peter and the Wolf and more about the demons from Nick’s past that he is trying to expunge from his otherwise exotic childhood.

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Thanks Sophia! Thanks to the cast and crew of the show!

Backstage! with Kate McStraw of Pop Up Opera!

As someone new to opera, I’ve seen a handful of performances in the past, mostly large-scale tours at Southampton Mayflower, entering this new world has been an incredibly exciting experience. Music is a powerful tool:- never more so than when projected by the lungs of opera singers!

I’m currently sat in rehearsals (the final week of three and our final preparation before opening night at The Vaults, London on Monday 21st March) and the energy in the room is electric!

Pop-up Opera singers have special talents to convey deep emotion through both the music and their acting whilst creating an intimate performance style. Director, James Hurley, interjects the rehearsal with notes about deathly stares and glares of revenge, in an attempt to create real tension on stage. The stage manager is off to purchase more fake blood!

This production has the formula to be particularly atmospheric, and is performed up close to the audience.

The setting has been updated to a 90s style Italian mafia environment; Capellio (Lord Capulet) the head of one gang with Tebaldo and Romeo gang members. During this story,  unlike the infamous Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet, the story opens with Romeo and Guileitta already in love and fighting for their love to survive against the bloody gang warfare taking place around them. The rehearsal room is full of wine crates and discarded champagne bottles, starkly lit by florescent strip lighting; part of Capellio’s basement wine bar from which he runs his ‘business’.

I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, so working on an operatic version of Romeo and Juliet has been a real joy. I’ve also learnt how both Shakespeare and Bellini have been inspired by the same original Italian text, rather than Bellini taking his inspiration from Shakespeare.

This is the first time Pop-up Opera have toured to Dorset.  Marine Theatre, with it’s flexible seating and sea-side location, couldn’t be a more perfect place to introduce the company to this county! We look forward to meeting audiences here on Monday 28th March – take it from an opera novice; this production will leave you hooked to this powerful artform.


By Kate McStraw, Pop-up Opera Producer (originally from Dorset!)