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Late Company, Trafalgar Studios | Review

Late Company, Trafalgar Studios | Review

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Late Company
Trafalgar Studios
Reviewed on Thursday August 24th 2017 by Lucy Jardine
★★★★

Late Company has transferred recently from Finborough Theatre to the tiny Trafalgar studios, where you sit, as if sharing the dining room, with the members of the cast.  Debra and Michael, a couple whose gay son Joel committed suicide after having been taunted online, have gathered, a year after his death, with Tamara, Michael and their son Curtis, to try and find some kind of 'closure', some kind of reparation. Curtis was responsible for some of the bullying. A place at the dining table has been laid for Joel.


The play benefits from this close actor-audience involvement - you are drawn into the play as it unfolds, and leave feeling utterly involved, transformed in some way by what you have witnessed.  We learn how Debra was unaware of videos that Joel had posted online, and how Curtis, moody Curtis, didn't think about what he was doing. We learn about Joel's depression - the sympathy that Debra displays, and the somewhat bullish opinions expressed by Michael that people should toughen up - that children are too protected. 


Tannahill's script sparkles with authenticity. How many times have these conversations played out up and down the country? As Tannahill himself questions, and has us do, how much are we as parents responsible for what our children do and see online? How much space should we give our children? The actors succeed in bringing these questions to  life in a very real, believable way - even if, occasionally, the Canadian accents lapse a little. If you want an uplifting night out at the theatre, don't go and see this play. But if you want to be challenged, go and see it tonight.


Late Company runs at Trafalgar Studios until September 16th

Read Olivia Mitchell's review of Late Company at the Finborough Theatre

Get a ticket to see the show for just £8 by using my code on Today Tix: https://www.todaytix.com/refer/TFKMJ/

In Conversation With... Louis Dempsey | Interview

In Conversation With... Louis Dempsey | Interview

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Louis Dempsey has an extensive list of credits to his name including film, television and theatre. He will soon be starring in the English Touring Theatre's production of Conor McPherson's, The Weir which opens on September 8th at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester



For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I trained with Cygnet Training Theatre in Exeter. I've appeared in numerous stage productions including the original West End production of Stones in his Pockets, Romans in Britain at The Crucible, Sheffield, Taming of the Shrew at The Globe, Juno and the Paycock at Bristol Old Vic, Some Voices at The Young Vic, Brothers of the Brush at Liverpool Everyman. I've also appeared in another Conor McPherson play, The Seafarer, at The Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

On screen I've appeared in films such as Troy, Cloud Atlas, Shooters, Revolver, Grabbers, Six Bullets, Omagh, The Last Drop. I've also popped up on tv screens in Holby City, Waterloo Road, Sea of Souls and, of course, The Bill.

Highlight of my career so far? Hmm. Probably Troy because it was an amazing experience to be part of a huge Hollywood blockbuster movie with all that entails.



Have you always aspired to be a performer or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

I never had any ambitions to become an actor. Where I grew up in Dublin your ambitions rarely went further than getting a job and a drink! I loved films as a child but I always assumed that actors came from Planet Actor. The idea that I might one day be up there on screen myself seemed utterly ridiculous.



What drew you to the role of Finbar in The Weir?

I don't know if one could say I was drawn to the role. My agent called, asked if I was interested in taking a meeting for a touring production of The Weir. I knew something of the play and having done The Seafarer (also by Conor McPherson) I was curious. When I read Finbar I kind of got where he was coming from but only in a very rough way.

When people come to see this production of The Weir they can expect to hear the best story they will hear all year! No doubt at all.



Can you sum up the show in five words?

Hmm. Funny. Poignant. Scary. Moving. Uplifting.



How is the 20th anniversary production of The Weir bringing something new to the modern classic?

Well I have never seen a production of The Weir so I cannot compare but I will say that The Weir is such a complete story, with so many layers and revelations about life, love, sadness, joy, heartbreak and happiness that I don't think it is even accurate to describe it as a modern classic. The Weir is simply a classic, regardless of when it was written or set.



What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

Prince Charles once asked me to have a drink with him. I did. It was fun.



If you could go back to any era, when would you go to and why?

Well, I'm not a big fan of the past. I suspect that if I did travel back in time to a bygone era, people there would say "What the hell are you doing here??!! There's no email and toilets haven't been invented. Are you crazy???”


What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?


You have two eyes, two ears and a mouth. Use them in that order. 


Thank you so much Louis for taking the time to do this interview. The Weir starts touring on September 8th and continues through to November 25th. More information and tickets can her found here.

Jane Eyre (Tour), Grand Opera House | Review

Jane Eyre (Tour), Grand Opera House | Review

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Jane Eyre (Tour)
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed by Damien Murray on Tuesday 22 August 2017 
★★

The National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic’s joint production of Jane Eyre is astonishingly good … and it is far from being what one would expect! 

It may be based on Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, but this work – devised by the original company – is modern in its approach, in its styling and in its staging and manages to retain Jane Eyre’s core characterisation of being a free spirit and a strong-willed individual who strives for equality and for the right to be herself. 

I am not a Brontë fan, yet I was blown away by this riveting production and gladly sat through over three hours of it without any loss of interest. Everything about this visually-stunning production is praise worthy, from its innovative direction and inventive staging to its exceptional and intense ensemble playing (complete with strong elements of physical theatre), and from its faultless lighting and sound plots to its magnificent movement, which ranged from the delicate and the balletic to the furious and the frenzied throughout. 

The trio of on-stage actor/musicians brought a lot to the table, with music that varied from appropriately ‘English’ style folk to gospel to what could best be described as atmospheric soundscapes, when required.  Musically, I loved Melanie Marshall’s apt interpretation and arrangement of the Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green) hit, 'Crazy' – so unexpected, yet totally fitting. 

Although performances were all faultless, I must congratulate Paul Mundell in particular for bringing the dog, Pilot, to life so well and with so much humour. 

Years ago, the Belfast Festival at Queen’s used to bring some spectacular pieces of world theatre to Belfast and these were ‘special’… This production is of such a high calibre that it seems a shame that it is just another touring production, for it, too, is very ‘special’ and provides a fantastic night of theatre – Don’t miss it! 

Jane Eyre continues at Belfast’s Grand Opera House until Sat 26 Aug, 2017

In Conversation With... Alexandra Silber | Interview

In Conversation With... Alexandra Silber | Interview

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If you've been on the tube in the last few months I'm sure you'll have spotted the marvellous Alexandra Silber's face plastered over the walls for Today Tix. Whilst Al's face is up there for her performances both on the West End and Broadway, she is also a beautifully eloquent lady and recently published her debut novel, After Anatevka, which tells the story of Hodel after Fiddler on the Roof

Alexandra was lovely enough to talk to Rewrite This Story about her writing process, After Anatevka, her transition from West End to Broadway and so much more. Make sure you read until the end to find out how you can win a copy of After Anatevka!



For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I went to drama school in Glasgow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before living in London and working the West End for several years. 

While I was in my final year at RCS, I was cast as Laura Fairlie in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White opposite Ruthie Henshall, Anthony Andrews and Damian Humbley

Among many other things, I have also played Julie Jordan in Carousel in the West End, made my Broadway debut opposite Tyne Daly in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, and have sung at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, was nominated for a Grammy for singing Maria in a the first ever symphonic recording of West Side Story with the San Francisco Symphony, and of course, at Royal Albert Hall with the John Wilson Orchestra for the BBC Proms as the titular character in their production of Kiss Me Kate

Above all, I have been fortunate enough to play two of Tevye’s daughters, one on each side of the Atlantic— the first was in the West End, portraying After Anatevka’s protagonist Hodel (the second-eldest daughter of Shalom Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman who is the star of the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof) at the Sheffield Crucible and its West End transfer, and last year, played Tzeitl, Tevye’s eldest daughter on Broadway in the most recent Broadway revival. 

Portraying both characters for such lengths of time, and with such incomparable creative teams and casts, informed, inspired and shaped the writing of After Anatevka: it truly was a journey from stage to page. 




Have you always aspired to be a performer or did you have a different dream when you were younger?

I always knew I wanted to be a professional creative— I’m not certain that acting and singing professionally was the epitome of my dream. As a child and teenager I loved the theatre, felt at home and accepted amongst its “creatures” and had an outlet to explore new worlds, research new ways of life, get inside different people’s minds and heart, and to express so many of my deepest emotions. 

I’ve been thinking very deeply about “dreams coming true” recently— possibly because so many people are asking me about it. “Is publishing your novel a dream come true” they will ask, and I don’t entirely know how to answer that. Because of course it is, I have dreamed of sharing my stories with the wider world, to hold a book-shaped book, with actual binding and  I have written in my hands

The voices on Broadway cast recordings were not only my inspirations, but my companions, my teachers; I know many people for whom that is a familiar history. But I felt very much the same about characters in books. I was just as enamored with E.M Forster’s Margaret Schlegel as I was with the book and score of South Pacific. 



Other than writing, have you got any hidden passions you’d like to pursue?

I love the accordion and have taken several lessons, and I passionately want to visit Antarctica. 



What drew you to the roles of Hodel and then Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof— are the three of you alike in any ways?

There are too many to mention. I honestly feel this question is best answered within the pages of After Anatevka— and not only the similarities, but the differences, and the growth every human being hopefully acquires as they age and experience life. I had the uncanny joy of being able to understand each woman more deeply as I embodied the other— much like members of the same family come to more deeply understand their siblings as they all become adults. 

One of my most treasured passages from After Anatevka is from the penultimate chapter, an epistolary exchange from Tzeitel to Hodel:


Home, Hodelleh. That place beyond the place where we rest our heads every night. Where our centerpieces, our sewing, our carefully prepared meals, simply do not matter. Where our petty little differences and competitions with one another do not matter anymore.

And I thought of you.

It is odd, Hodelleh. Because I do not know if you shall ever read this, I feel compelled to tell you more than ever. Home—where love shall reign supreme. The kind of home you always held within your heart, my dear sister, the kind no meaningless skill of mine could ever fully capture. How I love you, Hodel. It aches within me that I failed to show you in so many ways. That I provided you with every comfort but the comfort of my heart.

Yet I know that we shall both, as we always did, return to each other. For the love beneath our struggle is so strong. Perhaps in time, the Lord shall reveal to us why it is so difficult.


My goodness, to embody two such women. What a privilege.  




Did you feel any extra responsibility or pressure playing one of the few Jewish female characters in musical theatre?

I believe that if you portray any character or story with honesty and vulnerability, the work will resonate. Our only responsibility as artists is to tell the truth. 


After Anatevka tells the story of Hodel after Fiddler. When you research for a role do you think about what happens to the character after the show ends as well as their backstory or was Hodel an exception?

Hodel was absolutely an exception. 

The Broadway community and wider world may know me as the most-recent Tzeitel,  from the 2016 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, but from October 2006 to February 2008, I played Tevye's second-eldest daughter, Hodel, in the last West End revival in London. That experience was, without exception, the most immersive and deeply felt of my artistic life thus far. It was like a “first love—” the kind one never forgets, and imprints itself upon you more deeply than any to follow it. Hodel’s strength and sense of purpose, your complex feminine spirit, her wit and determination, her devotion and loving heart. She offered me a chance to find all of these things within myself, and to grow with them. 

While all characters tend to endear themselves to you, Hodel haunted me— remained in my cells like an un-rinseable, inextinguishable fuel. Actors often embody traits of the characters they take on, but few characters weave in and out of the soul until you can scarcely detect the line between the emotional truths of one and the other. 


If you could write a continuation of any other musical theatre character, who would you choose and why?

Tzeitel. I think we can all agree that I’m now intensely involved in this family’s “future story—” I do feel compelled to finish what I’ve started. Additionally, I don’t think I’ve heard the last of Hodel. We leave her at quite a cliffhanger in After Anatevka

You’ve made the transition from West End to Broadway and from acting to writing so well. What would your advice be to people hoping to do similar?

Being a “multi-hyphenate” is simultaneously straightforward, and tremendously complex. 

To “do” something other than what is listed on, say, your tax return, there is very little required other than to just DO it. You want to write? Don’t wait for a permission slip from the Gods of Writing; just write. An essay. A blogpost. A Tweet. It does’t matter what you create as long as you actually create it, and create it from a place of authenticity. 



What’s your writing setup like? Do you have a certain playlist you listen to or a drink you always have?

Yes. I have a beautiful vintage pull-down writing desk! It has been handed down from my mother— she found it on the street when she was in college. When she discovered it, it was covered in layers of paint that she subsequently stripped away, to reveal a beautiful raw wood. The desk has been in my home since childhood, and the handle where you “pull-down” is the face of a lion, that I always thought was the face of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia

I write for about one hour every day, with a pot of tea poured from my perfect little tea pot (gifted to me by actress Lara Pulver), under the supervision of my cat, Tatiana. 



Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?

I’m an introvert. In fact, according to the Myers Briggs personality test I’m an INFJ (which is a very rare personality type, about 2% of the world’s population). Many people challenge me on this, based on their mis-impressions of not only me, but introverts in general. Introverts are not necessarily aloof, shy, people-hating trolls, we simply recharge our personal batteries in solitude. Despite my highly developed extrovert behavior, I still require (and enjoy!) lots of time alone to process life. 

Also, I have a (fabulous, diva, rescued) cat named Tatiana Angela Lansbury Romanov. She is a star (cue: Mama Rose music)!! She has her own Instagram page, which is: photographs of “Tati” (as I call her) with theatrical captions called @ifeelkitty.…..You’re welcome. 



What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?


For anyone, really: success is not about what you do, it is about how you feel about what you do. 



A massive thank you to Al for taking the time to do this interview. Read my review of After Anatevka here.

Time for the giveaway! To win a SIGNED COPY of After Anatevka all you have to do is RT THIS TWEET and follow Rewrite This Story on twitter! You get two extra entries if you follow @OliviaMitche and @RewriteThisWeb on instagram.

In Conversation With... Emma Kingston | Interview

In Conversation With... Emma Kingston | Interview

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In my opinion, Emma Kingston has one of the absolute best voices on the West End. I've been fortunate enough to see her in a number of shows and concerts, including Les Miserables, In The Heights and most recently, the stunning Fiddler on the Roof at the Chichester Festival theatre. Emma was kind enough to sit down and discuss Fiddler, After Anatevka, her hidden passion and more...




Have you always aspired to be a performer or did you have a different dream when you were younger?

I've always wanted to be a performer. I used to sing Les Mis and Anything Goes with my dad all the time. 



Have you got any hidden passions you’d like to pursue?

I love Psychology! As an actor I love getting inside a characters brain. I studied Psychology at A Level and I would love to further my understanding of why people are the way they are. Furthering my study's would interest me as well as it being useful as an actor.



What drew you to the role of Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof- are the two of you alike in any ways?

I'm jewish, so growing up Fiddler was always being quoted around the house. I used to watch the film with my grandma. Also, ‘Far from the Home I Love’ was the first song I ever sang in a singing lesson when I was 11.



How is this production bringing something new to the well-loved musical?

We are so lucky that our production in Chichester has amazing new orchestrations by David White and new choreography by Alistair David, bringing a fresh take on the brilliant musical.

Sam MacKay (Usnavi) and Emma Kingston (Vanessa) in In The Heights

Do you feel any extra responsibility or pressure playing one of the few explicitly Jewish female characters in musical theatre?

I feel a responsibility to show the traditions in a way that people of other cultures can relate to. I want to show people that Judaism is a way of life as well as a religion. The community aspect for me is so important.



What’s your research process like for each role you take on, has After Anatevka helped add a new dimension to your portrayal?

For Fiddler I dived into researching about Russia pre 1905 and Russian attitudes towards jewish people. Also looking at Jewish culture in shetles in Russia. My paternal grandparents were children of immigrants from Lithuania and Oddessa, so I had lots of family history to draw on.

After Anatevka I am enjoying so much, especially now I understand so much more about Hodel. I’m loving reading her journey after she leaves home, and how Alexandra has filled in the parts of Fiddler that we don't see in the musical. 



If you’d written After Anatevka would you have given Hodel the same after story? 

Alexandra's story has portrayed so many aspects of Hodel's life during the Fiddler story and after that I thought about a lot. Especially the way she highlights her relationship with her sisters and Perchik. As I'm reading, I feel that the story all completely slots into place and I can't imagine her next journey any other way.



Tradition is obviously the central theme in Fiddler. Do you have any family traditions?

My family traditions are the Fiddler traditions! Every Friday night my family and I get together for a shabbat meal. We celebrate Jewish festivals like Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Passover and many others.

Emma Kingston (Hodel), Simbi Akande (Tzeitel) , Rose Shalloo (Chava) in Fiddler on the Roof

How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?

Drink endless amounts of water and concentrate on centring your breathing.  



If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?

After Fiddler, I'm playing Eva Peron in the Hal Prince production of Evita, international tour and I can't wait! My mum is Argentine, so it's a huge bucket list role, much like Hodel in Fiddler is! 



Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?

One of my first words was Archemeaies (the owl from sword in the stone) my parents were so proud haha! 



What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?


Don't compare your journey to anybody else's. Be original. I read a quote by Steve Martin "Be so good they can't ignore you”, to me that means work as hard as you can on being the best you can be.



Thank you so much Emma for taking the time for this interview. Fiddler on the Roof runs until September 2nd. 

Read my review of After Anatevka here and keep an eye out for an interview with Alexandra Silber and a giveaway!

In Conversation With... Kirsty MacLaren | Interview

In Conversation With... Kirsty MacLaren | Interview

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I'm back with another Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour post (see my recent interview with Karen here)! Today I bring you a chat about all things Our Ladies with the lovely Kirsty MacLaren who plays Manda!



For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and what your highlights have been so far?

Well, for me, doing Our Ladies has been the highlight. I’ve covered so many career goals on this job, from working with National Theatre of Scotland, performing at the National Theatre, touring internationally and now working in the West End. Plus originating a role is a pretty special experience. It’s been the job that has kept on giving, to be honest.

Before I started Our Ladies, and during the breaks we’ve had, I’ve been lucky to do some really diverse work where I’ve learned so much. I’ve worked at Pitlochry Festival Theatre for a year, played Lulu in a series of radio dramas and performed with companies like the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. These experiences give you the chance to really learn what it is to be an actor.


Were you born wanting to be a performer or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?

I always has lots of energy as a child and was sent to dance lessons to tire me out. I come from a musical family so was always exposed to different types of music, although I didn't really know anyone who had acted professionally. I loved doing amateur dramatics and going to acting classes when I was little, but I had always wanted to be a lawyer until I sort of fell into doing the arts. I went to a Knightswood Secondary, which has a performing arts school attached, and knew then that I had to go down that path.


Our Ladies is just epically brilliant. When you first started working on it did you know it was something special?

I think that we were all so excited with this piece we had made that we weren’t really thinking about how much of a hit it might be. We certainly couldn't have imagined the success that we have had over the 2 years of doing it. The team that are on it are amazing and we were having such a good time creating this piece of theatre that was totally different to anything anyone had done before. But the reception that we got on our first night at the Traverse is something I’ll never forget.




I saw the show at both The National and at the Duke of York and it didn’t lose any of it’s intimate feel or charm. Does the way you work and rehearse change for different venues?

The show relies so much on story telling so whether you are in a small 100 seat venue or an 800 seat venue, that principle stays the same. What changes is how much you have to project in each venue, but as long as you think about telling the story to the person at the very back or top of the theatre, you can’t go wrong.


There are so many styles of music in the show. Does this come naturally or did you have to learn to sing different styles?

I’m trained in different vocal styles, but rarely do you have to mash them together in one show. It’s tiring on the voice, but once you build up the stamina, it becomes much easier.


How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?

We always do a big group warm up together before the show which gets you ready. It’s really important to rest when you can. I’ve also got a vocal steamer helps stop your voice drying out.


Besides yourself, who would you like to see play your role?

I’m a big fan of Morven Christie. She’s seen the show and tweets about it a lot. I think she’d fit right in with us girls.


Can you sum up Our Ladies in five words?

Bold; life-affirming; hilarious; heartbreaking; female



Have you had any funny onstage or offstage mishaps in the show?

Often! We are always laughing at each other on stage. I remember going on with my mic on the outside of my clothes. The other girls didn't tell me until quite a bit through the show. I didn't know what they were laughing at until I eventually realised, and by that point, it was too late.


Is there a musical or play you’ve seen recently that you loved?

I’ve been able to see quite a lot of theatre this summer while I’ve been in London. I loved The Glass Menagerie and Half a Sixpence - both very different, but both brilliant.


Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?

I work as a fitness instructor in my spare time. Its a great job when I’m not acting as its flexible, plus I can fit classes in during the day when I’m working in a show.


What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

Every opportunity is a good opportunity. Whether you're at youth theatre, am-dram, drama school or a professional show, you can learn from every experience. Listen to any advice you can get and never be scared to ask for help.



A huge thank you to Kirsty for doing this interview! 
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York's until September 2nd 2017
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