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Strictly Judge Craig Revel Horwood Reveals All about Upcoming Musical

A Q&A with Craig Revel Horwood, Director and Choreographer of NOW That’s What I Call A Musical.

Image credit: https://www.craigrevelhorwood.com/index.php

What sort of night are audiences in for when they come to see NOW That’s What I Call A Musical?

They can expect some fantastic tunes, a blast from the past, some amazing dancing, some great singing and a great story. It’s a little bit like Stephen Sondheim’s Follies in the fact that it’s set at a reunion and there are flashbacks. The main characters flash back to how they were as teenagers, the music they listened to back in the 80s and the things that led them to live their lives the way they have. It explores all of that and we also have a twist towards the end where we go ahead in time too. It goes through various time zones [laughs] so it’s a little bit like Back to the Future.

 

How does it tie in with the ‘NOW’ brand?

The flashbacks are all about the time when the NOW albums were so famous and so beloved, and the story is about two girls exploring how they’ve lived their lives through music. So those albums and that music were a big part of the leading characters’ teenage years.

 

The show is written by Pippa Evans. How is it collaborating with her?

She’s fun and she’s funny. She’s got a really great sense of humour and she’s a fantastic writer, not to mention a fantastic comic writer. She’s come up with some great twists in the tale and she’s quite sensitive as a writer towards young teenage girls and their relationship with their parents whilst they’re growing up.

 

It’s a brand new musical. That must be an exciting thing to be a part of?

It’s really exciting because with a brand new musical there’s nothing to really base it on, so when you get into the rehearsal room you can be really creative and you have an open mind. That’s what I love about doing new work. With this it’s about weaving all the great songs through the story. That’s one of the challenges, as well as making sure the story is strong. Comedy is a huge element in the show as well as a lot of heartfelt moments, and we’re using songs from the 80s to help push the story forward. There are so many creative opportunities with a new show and when I’m directing I really let everyone have a bit of a say. We all create the show together in the room and I think that’s really important. The actors can bring their creativity and their thoughts and ideas for the characters, then it’s about structuring it.

 

How is the guest artist Carol Decker weaved into the story?

[Laughs] It’s sort of a moment of madness really, where the musical goes into a little bit of fantasy. The singer the girls idolised and were totally in love with come to life to offer them wisdom and advice. It’s a bit like Beauty School Dropout from Grease only the advice she gives is much kinder!

Why do you think pop music is so important to everyone’s lives?

The 80s was a great time for pop and music in general helps people through lots of emotional journeys in their lives, especially with teenagers because their hormones are running riot. As an older person you look back to those moments that made you happy and music is a huge part of that. This show taps into that nostalgia but it will also appeal to younger audiences because a lot of the 80s tunes are coming back or they’ve been covered by other artists. There’s something in it for absolutely everyone and I think teenagers will associate with the two girls – how they’re living their lives, their hopes and their dreams, and their aspirations – as much as adults will. Those are themes that are universal.

 

NOW That’s What I Call Music is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Why do you think it’s such an iconic brand?

Again it’s because music is so important to people’s lives and also the NOW albums first came along at a time when people would make compilations for friends and lovers. They were like ready-made mixtapes, where you’d get so many amazing hits on one album, cassette tape or on CD whereas before you’d have to buy individual singles or albums. I think a lot of teenagers now will be shocked and surprised that we had tape decks back in the day! Before the NOW albums you’d wait for a song to come on the radio, then record it onto a cassette, and you’d never manage to get the full version of it.

 

What was the first single and the first album you ever bought?

The first single I ever bought was Monster Mash, bizarrely, when I was growing up in Australia. And I think the first album I totally fell in love with was Dare by the Human League. I loved all the songs on that album, the tone of it and the freedom of it. It was like a whole new experience because it was so modern.

 

Which pop pin-ups did you have on your wall during the 80s?

Coming after ABBA and going into the 80s it was Whitney Houston because I thought ‘How can someone sing like that and look like that?’ She was like a supermodel with this incredible voice. I loved Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics as well, plus Duran Duran.

 

What were your 80s fashion choices?

I used to have headbands and I had a long side parting, sort of like curtains. Looking back, my fashion was pretty bad actually but of course at the time I thought I was cool. I used to tie rags around my feet as well, around my calves, over my boots. It was a bit weird. I never got completely punky with it but I used to love that trendy headband and long hair combination. That and baggy jeans.

 

Have you ever met any of your popstar idols? And who would you most like to meet?

I’ve met Boy George, who was a real inspiration to me growing up. I just loved how outspoken he was and how he dressed. I’ve met him a few times actually and he’s great company. I got to meet Whitney Houston before she died, which was amazing, and Olivia Newton-John. I’ve also met Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Annie Lennox… quite a few people, in fact. I haven’t met Barbra Streisand yet but I’d really like to because I’ve been listening to her music my entire life.

 

You work a lot on TV but what do you most love about the theatre?

I grew up with theatre and the first show I saw was Jesus Christ Superstar. Then I became a professional dancer and my first musical was West Side Story. I’ve been in the theatre all my life really and I’ve never, ever given it up. I’ve either been directing, choreographing, dancing performing or whatever. My favourite thing is directing and choreographing. I only started performing for panto, then in 2015 I was asked to do Annie and this year I’m doing The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch. I love performing but, as I say, directing and choreographing is what I enjoy the most.

 

What do you hope people take away from seeing NOW That’s What I Call A Musical?

I think people will learn something about themselves. The story will prompt them to reflect on their lives to date and how it’s all worked out for them – what their hopes and aspirations were and how that fuelled whatever passion they had to help them become who they are today. People will see themselves in the show and that’s one of the many things that’s really great about it, along with the story, the costumes, the dancing, the comedy and all that fantastic music.

  |   See the musical for yourself this November at Hall for Cornwall!

Written by award-winning comedian Pippa Evans, and directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing legend Craig Revel Horwood, this heart-warming and funny story takes us on an uplifting journey down memory lane. See the musical in Truro, Cornwall this winter!

BOOK NOW by clicking here.

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Shining the Spotlight on our 200 Volunteers

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organisation… They’re part of our big Cornish welcome to our building.”

– Julien Boast, Chief Executive and Creative Director of Hall for Cornwall

It’s National Volunteer’s Week, and we’re taking a moment to thank every single one of our 200 volunteers who give their time to Hall for Cornwall.

As a charity, we simply wouldn’t be here without our volunteers. As Cornwall’s only largescale theatre, we’re proud to provide a warm Cornish welcome to everyone who walks through our doors – and that starts with the people who greet you the moment you arrive.

Whether it’s scanning tickets, showing you to your seats, or supplying you with your very important interval ice cream, our volunteers are always here to help, with a kind word and a familiar smile.

Photo by Hugh Hastings

   | At the heart of the community

We’re passionate about providing an inclusive and diverse environment, and that extends from our stage programme, to our auditorium, and right through to our volunteers. We’re proud to welcome members of the community from all backgrounds, ages and walks of life – our youngest volunteer is 16, and our eldest is in their late 80s!

Front of House Manager Alex Laidlaw with Volunteer Usher Penelope, photo by Hugh Hastings

One of our longest standing volunteers, Penelope, takes care of any patrons with access needs. We asked her what it means to be a part of Hall for Cornwall.

“Money cannot buy what we give and what we get in return. It’s about those connections you have, maybe they’re really short connections, but it makes the difference. Kindness to strangers is a very powerful thing.”

‘Six’ opening night, photo by Hugh Hastings

“Every night is different, it can add so much to your life, it can enrich it. Hall for Cornwall is such an asset to Cornwall and we’re really proud to be a part of it.”

‘Rocky Horror Show’ opening night, photo by Hugh Hastings

   | Thank you to volunteers everywhere

We’re so proud of our volunteers, and we couldn’t do what we do without them – and the feeling goes both ways! Many of the wonderful people who’ve joined us as volunteers are proud of their role and the value that it adds to their life. Meeting new people, making new friends, and having the chance to socialise with theatre-lovers like them are just some of the reasons why our volunteers give their time. For others, it’s a moment of respite from caring duties and challenging home lives in an environment full of joy and the buzz of live entertainment.

So whether it’s a chance to give back to the community, or experience live theatre with likeminded people, we’re proud to provide a place where they can be themselves.

As part of this week’s celebrations, we invited our volunteers to a special evening in the Cornwall Playhouse.

The attendees were offered an insight into the projects that we’re working on and plans for the future, before heading off for a social in our Playhouse Bar. There were plenty of great questions, and it gave us the opportunity to say a big THANK YOU in person to the people who make us who we are.

“They’re an asset to the team – we couldn’t run without them… I can’t thank them enough.”

– Alex Laidlaw, Front of House Manager

   | Discover more on BBC Sounds

Our Front of House Manager Alex Laidlaw is joined by volunteers Penny and Gavin to chat about the 200 people who give their time to Hall for Cornwall. Listen here (skip to 2.40pm)

Chief Executive and Creative Director Julien Boast joins volunteers Jenny and Suzi to talk about why they chose Hall for Cornwall. Listen here.

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HfC Associate Artist Celebrates Triumph at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 

Falmouth-based sound artist Justin Wiggan – one of our associate artists – wowed the judges at RHS Chelsea Flower Show with his latest audio instillation.

For the past 6 months, Justin has been using technology to convert energy from plants into sounds to form a soundscape which is played within the garden.

Justin Wiggan, HfC Associate Artist, by Hugh Hastings Photography

Inspired by National Trust founder 

The Octavia Hill Garden is designed and led by Anne-Marie Powell Gardens, Blue Diamond Garden Centres and the National Trust. The garden pays tribute to National Trust founder Octavia Hill – Justin’s soundscape includes birdsong and a speech by Octavia Hill, which he found and presented as a new poem ‘Whispers of better things to come to us’.

With this special soundscape, the garden is designed to appeal to visitors with sensory loss and additional access needs.

Rooted in Cornwall

Earlier this year, Justin became one of our Associate Artists. Our programme, made possible by Arts Council England’s support of Hall for Cornwall as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), provides essential artist development support, advice and funding for developing artists in Cornwall.

Justin said: “I’m so grateful to Hall for Cornwall for their constant support providing office space, advice, and helping me with various funding opportunities and commissions. Being an Associate Artist at HfC has given me exposure of my work in a new network, which I wouldn’t normally have opportunity to explore.” 

Julien Boast, Chief Executive and Creative Director of Hall for Cornwall, said: “We’re overjoyed to see Justin’s work achieving such high-profile success, reaching new and diverse audiences. With our support, Cornwall-based artists continue to deliver on the national stage and we’re proud to have been a catalyst for Justin’s success. It’s exactly what our artist development programmes are for.” 

Chelsea medal-winning art 

The garden exhibiting Justin’s work won the Silver-Gilt Medal, the People’s Choice Award, and the first ever Children’s Choice Award.

Prior to Chelsea Flower Show, Justin’s award-winning works have been exhibited nationally and internationally, including B.O. M Birmingham, Protein Gallery London, Baltic Gallery, Citric Gallery Italy, and Gigantic Art Space New York. His aim is to educate, share and engage people with sound as a creative field, and reconnect with their lives using sound art.

Justin continues: “It’s super exciting to belong to such a high-profile team of international garden designers, landscapers, the National Trust, and Blue Diamond Garden Centres. It’s allowed for renewed discussions for artists to engage with the public in new and creative ways.”

Judi Dench ushers in new beginning

After the tragic incident at the famous ‘Sycamore Gap’, new roots were planted at the Chelsea Flower Show this year.

With the help of seven-year-old schoolgirl Charlotte Crowe, Dame Judi Dench planted a sapling from the fallen sycamore at the Octavia Hill Garden, promising new beginnings. Surrounded by the sounds of Justin’s instillation, the sycamore will find new life in Chelsea.

You can find out more about Justin Wiggan’s work here.

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GETTING CREATIVE ACROSS CORNWALL…

Catch up with our Get Creative youth groups

Our popular Youth Theatre and Youth Dance groups are the cornerstone of HfC’s Get Creative outreach work, which engages more than 10,000 young Cornish people each year. In this piece, we’re catching up with all the goings on within our youth companies…

International Dance Day

At the end of April we threw the spotlight on International Dance Day, which seemed like the perfect excuse to celebrate the power of dance – on and off the Cornwall Playhouse stage.

A Youth Dance performance on the Cornwall Playhouse stage, mage by Hugh Hastings

“Dance has the power to move us, to inspire us, to wow us, to entertain us. From Strictly stars to our own incredible Youth Dancers, from companies like Rambert and Motionhouse, to all the dazzling dance schools who perform here at the Cornwall Playhouse…”

Helen Tiplady, Deputy Creative Director

For more on our response to International Dance Day, take a look here…

Young Company Rehearsals…

As the month of May began, our Young Company started rehearsals for their upcoming performance of Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale. Set in Cambridge, 1896, the play takes its name from a derogatory term for female intellectuals. Throughout this period, women were allowed to attend university, but weren’t permitted to receive a formal qualification at the end of their studies – unlike their male classmates.

Blue Stockings will be presented on Sat 03 Aug on the Cornwall Playhouse stage – keep an eye on our social channels for more info and details about tickets.

Youth Dance

Our Junior, Intermediate and Senior Youth Dancers met again on 05 May to begin working on their Jack and the Beanstalk themed pieces. Inspired by our upcoming festive Cornwall Playhouse production of this popular English fairytale, each group will perform their pieces at Watergate Bay’s Arts on the Beach in June, alongside a host of local and national professional artists who will partake in the 3-day arts beach fest.

HfC Youth Dance perform at 2023’s Arts on the Beach at Watergate Bay. Image by Hugh Hastings

Dance, theatre and exam anxiety

Many of our young company members have school exams coming up soon which inevitably raises anxiety levels. We believe that movement, play and a change of scene are an essential piece of the jigsaw as our young people begin to navigate the pointy end of their academic careers…

“There were a few tears from those taking their exams this week during the regular ‘check in’ that we do at the start of each dance and theatre session – but dancing, moving, playing theatre games and working with peers for a few hours gave them light relief from exam revision and stress. I’m very glad they have chosen to keep coming as this creative release is really important for them and their wellbeing. We’re also covering the importance of eating well, sleeping well and having a good revision timetable to help mitigate stress. We wish them all Chons Da for the weeks ahead, whilst also remembering exams do not define you!”

Helen Tiplady, Deputy Creative Director

 

Want to be a part of it all?

Do you have a passion for performance? Want to sing or dance on stage? Then Hall for Cornwall’s Get Creative scheme and our Young Companies may be for you.

Youth Dance, image by Hugh Hastings

Work with industry professionals to explore creativity, collaboration and choreography in regular workshops, while working towards exciting projects. You’ll even have the chance to perform on the Cornwall Playhouse stage during our end of term showcases!

One of our Youth Dancers said: “I’ve been part of the Hall for Youth Dance Company for 10 years and performing on the Hall for Cornwall stage at the showcase was a beautiful dream come true.”

We have workshops for ages 5 – 19 and welcome all levels of experience.

All Boys Dance, image by Hugh Hastings

Our next date for the diary is Sun 17 May when our All Boys Dance Summer Term begins. There’s still time to get creative with us!

Come along and explore your creativity, while learning new dance and performance skills. Based at AMATA on Falmouth University’s Penryn campus, our workshops are open to complete beginners and performers of all experience levels. Find out more here.

While most of our youth dance and theatre terms are well underway, it’s not too late to join and we’re always happy to chat to late joiners. Email [email protected] to register your interest and find out more about our youth programmes.

A date for your diary…

RSC Associate Schools Showcase

?  TUE 11 JUN

Primary and secondary schools from across the RSC Associate Schools programme in Cornwall join forces to bring you their version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The Showcase, supported by the Royal Shakespeare Company, represents the culmination of work between practitioners, teachers and students, and sees 200+ school children take to the Cornwall Playhouse stage, some for the very first time, to present this hilarious comedy of love, disguise and misrule!

Learn more here.

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FROM PLEN-AN-GWARI TO THEATRE CORNWALL

By HELEN GRASSLY

Burrell Foley Fischer

Photo by French & Tye

What a dream moment – the opportunity to be architects for the refurbishment of a well-loved theatre – to increase its capacity, improve the sight lines and give it a sustainable future. At Hall for Cornwall, this was wrapped up in a fine collection of Grade II* listed buildings and a mission aligned with the values of our architectural practice – to encourage the arts, celebrate the heritage of listed buildings and enable access for all without distinction.

The Green Room Café by Hugh Hastings

The seeds of the project were all there in that first, well-written brief. In essence, it asked us to create a dynamic and strong relationship between performers and audience; embrace a building that had evolved with the vicissitudes of fortune for 175 years; develop a site that had been occupied for much longer, and celebrate the Cornish context, the culture, the language and the independent attitude.

We hadn’t anticipated falling in love with Truro

It happened on that first evening as we looked at the rain-swept granite, listening to the noisy rills of water and the disappearing estuaries that danced and twisted through the streets, subtly carving the shape of the city. We explored the idiosyncrasies of the Opeways with their crazy shortcuts – you enter Squeeze Guts Alley next to the shoe shop and pop out at the back of a Gothic Revival cathedral that should be in Northern France.

View from Lemon Quay by Hugh Hastings

As architects, you always start with questions

The building has always been civic – a market, skating rink, cinema, shooting range amongst others. Could we create an open public building where the audience flowed as naturally and easily through the internal spaces as they did in the streets? The precedent of the Plen-an-Gwari, was in our minds, a sophisticated contemporary of the transient, Medieval pageant wagon. The Plen was the permanent circular playing space of Medieval Cornish theatre. Sited at the edge of town, the audience was accompanied from scene to scene by the narrator and free to move around the staging.

The auditorium prior to renovation – photographer unknown

What was the quality of the existing building? We saw the austere beauty of Christopher Eales’ 1847 marketplace on the Boscawen side, and the softer, light-filled Back Quay with tall spaces and fine windows looking onto Lemon Quay. But the space in the middle was covered in plasterboard and painted purple. The volume of the space could potentially provide a fine acoustic, but risk lay in what we might uncover when we stripped out the late 20th century insertions around the perimeter.

Standing on stage in the arena style auditorium with the audience vanishing into the far corners we absolutely understood the disconnect between the audience and performer. The space was too wide and the proscenium enormous, but we needed to make it bigger, adding 300 seats and a roof extension too.

During the renovation by Hugh Hastings

On meeting Julien and the team for the first time it was evident they’d already worked on reimagining the building and gathered enough funding to realise their vision – we knew we had to respond by making something unique. Not a London theatre transposed, no red velvet upholstery or closed shutters if there wasn’t a performance. Comfortable, relaxed, welcoming and of the highest quality is what the Cornish people deserved.

Julien was brave enough to say yes to our question and prompt more

History uncovered… by Hugh Hastings

Yes, to an open space where the audience easily moves from the foyer to stalls and balconies and where there is always a stair or ramp to connect through to the next level. Yes, to exposing the perimeter walls regardless, revealing a palette of rough and friable
Cornish Killas stone, blocks of Carn Brea granite, modern concrete blocks, old roof lines and redundant steels that sketched the history of the building. Yes, to allowing the auditorium to sit as a simple, robust and modern insertion clearly differentiated from the restrained classical formality of the architecture of the listed building.

Seating in the Cornwall Playhouse by Hugh Hastings

Working closely with Charcoalblue, Skelly and Couch, and Price and Myers, we designed a three-tiered auditorium. We replaced the old one and introduced new circle and balcony levels by reusing the existing structural frame, extending it at roof level and digging down into the ground. This created 1,250 seats in the stalls, circle, and balcony combined with 100 standing seats, increasing the overall capacity from 900 to 1,350. Enough to compete with top-tier presenting theatres and receive the first tours of brand-new shows. Installing movable shutters and drapes means the theatre can tailor its acoustic and atmospheric profile to suit drama, stand-up comedy, amplified music, orchestral music and other live events.

The new auditorium is an open space within the granite box of the original marketplace

With new views through and out to the back façade of the city hall and Back Quay on the harbour side, the public can now glimpse the world of theatre in the daytime during rehearsals and set-ups. Together with the lifts and gentle ramps across the site there’s universal access. Better seating for all audience members includes thirteen spaces for those using wheelchairs and with a variety of locations within the auditorium to choose from. Improved dressing room facilities, and for the first time, accessible facilities for performers with disabilities.

The fantastic arcaded marketplace on Boscawen Street has been restored. It now forms a new foyer for the theatre and Playhouse Bar. We also remodeled the original Duchy offices at the Back Quay to form Husa, a new co-working space with a relaxed café bar.

The Playhouse Bar by Hugh Hastings

Embarking on a huge refurbishment project is always a leap into the unknown, but Julien and his team were quick to make thoughtful decisions throughout. The early reference to Basil Spence was a clear signal and we followed a clear set of principles – the building’s past had to be celebrated as part of the local collective community heritage; it wasn’t a restoration, but we had to stabilise the building, and the ask was to show the scars of the previous alterations, as well as be true to the materials, adding only honest and robust detailing with refined surfaces that want to be touched (oak, steel, soft-stained wood) and maintain simplicity everywhere else.

A standing ovation in the Cornwall Playhouse by Hugh Hastings

The Cornish are proud, independently-minded people with a keen sense of historical and cultural identity. In revitalising the Hall for Cornwall, we were asked to design a theatre that was representative of its location and culture; a space that was open to all, without barriers to attendance or participation. The finished building successfully connects the past and the present, the social with the artistic, and the community with heritage and place.

Opening night of Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical by Hugh Hastings

It felt like we’d got it right at that first Saturday night performance of Fisherman’s Friends. When the audience rose to its feet to sing along with the cast – any barriers between the community and the performers vanished.

 

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HfC resident photographer reveals his childhood connection

By Hugh Hastings

Funny how some memories stick around a whole lifetime: I can still recall the day in 1968 when I was an eleven year old schoolboy at Colet Court in Hammersmith, London and the headmaster brought the morning assembly to an abrupt halt to introduce the school to two young men who would be writing an end-of-term musical for us to perform.

From beneath the balcony where I was sat with my classmates ambled two young men towards the headmaster who introduced them as Tim and Andrew and we were told to do whatever they required in the creation of their second ever work, ‘Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”. It all seemed rather surreal and biblical.

Given what Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have gone on to achieve, it’s worth noting the first humble steps of their careers included working with off-key monsters like us kids as an inspiration for any aspiring young creatives. We duly rehearsed the work again and again, giggling quite a lot at the wrong moments of course, and then found ourselves in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, trying not to mess up the first ever live performance – and live recording too, if I recall. 2,500 people attended, mostly proud parents.

Somewhere along the way I managed to get my first-ever autograph book for Tim and Andrew to sign for me, accompanied as they were in my book by other well-known visitors to the school, mostly from the world of sport including Jim Laker, Cliff Morgan and Jimmy Hill. 

There’s also a page of scribbles in that book of me practicing my signature – all pretty horrible – and a poem from my Mum, which reads: “Big fleas have small fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em, and little fleas have smaller fleas, and so on, ad infinitum.” A super lovely Mum, but whatever did she mean?

The school soon moved out of Hammersmith to Barnes, and with it came Tim Rice, who became very successful and a Barnes resident and I remember standing behind him with my parents in the queue for meat at Seal’s the butchers.

Oddly, many years later when Tim bought a lovely house in a secluded Cornish coastal village, the couple who lived at the end of his drive were Noel and Barbara, my first wife’s parents.

In May this year I look forward to being on duty as the Photographer in Residence at the Hall for Cornwall when Tim takes to the stage, at this more advanced time, to entertain Cornwall with memories and songs from his incredible musical career.

He won’t recall a young schoolboy from his early days – for why should he – but I can still see young Tim today from another time and place and I’ll reflect on how interesting life can be, how small the world is, how big the opportunities within.

At least in my era, and I hope so still, for today’s eleven year olds.


You can see Hugh in action when Sir Tim Rice visits us on WED 08 MAY.

Cover Image: Jesus Christ Superstar.


 

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If Music Be the Food of Love… ‘Shakespeare Nation’ Plays On!

By Sam Rankin

Shakespeare Nation Producer at Hall for Cornwall

All good things must come to an end…

Now that the dust has settled on what was a busy production weekend, I find myself reflecting on the rehearsal process from the last couple of months.

Twelfth Night was perhaps the most ambitious Shakespeare Nation project to date. Under the masterful direction of Alister & Miranda from Prodigal UPG, we all knew we were in safe hands from the off. The focus very much on the text itself this time round, and a group of community actors have spent the last three months working on what was ultimately a fresh and unique take on a Shakespeare classic!

With familiar faces from the last two productions – Comedy of Errors (2022) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2023) – the company was at its core one brimming with extremely talented performers from the local community. Just when you think things can’t get any better, many new members joined the ranks, seamlessly becoming an integral part of this supportive and inclusive group of people.

Through the tireless efforts of the creative team, the technical staff at Hall for Cornwall, and dedicated body of actors, the play was such a success – the laughter, applause, and cheering from a receptive audience affirming this was indeed a job well done.

What always becomes clear towards the end of a Shakespeare Nation project is just how much the process means to everyone involved. These are special experiences for a company of like-minded people, who genuinely relish the opportunity to work and create together. And although Twelfth Night may have come to an end, the comfort is in knowing that the next project will be upon us before we know it.

Until next time!

Photos by Hugh Hastings.

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FROM RURAL TO CUTTING EDGE

By HELEN TIPLADY Deputy Creative Director

Acclaimed recording artist Carleen Anderson is testament to the kind of creative talent we back, now and in the future. With Hall for Cornwall in its new guise there’s opportunity for us to be the instigator of innovative new work, and our building the canvas for new ideas, so expect more of both.

Hall for Cornwall first collaborated on Carleen’s 2018 stage production that she described as her ‘Tribal Opera’, otherwise known as Cage Street Memorial. In its early development Arts Council England provided funding to workshop it and the work garnered high praise when presented to selected industry professionals. The accompanying album, subsequently staged at the Barbican, was recorded at Falmouth University. With six acclaimed albums under her belt Carleen has accumulated numerous industry accolades, including a Brit Award and coveted Mercury Prize. She became one of our Associate Artists in 2019 and part of a wave of artists and companies we’ve seed funded and nurtured from the wider creative industries for over four years now.

In 2022, and as the newly formed Cornwall Playhouse Productions, we co-produced the world premiere of Carleen’s new work MELIOR Opus Griot, a compelling futuristic opera performed by a truly original ensemble of artists, both professional and community performers. Again, Arts Council support was instrumental. Conceived, composed, written, and performed by Carleen this new work brought together world class musicians with Cornish talent.

It was a unique blend of storytelling, singing, poetry, projection and music, fusing jazz, soul, electronic and classical. Carleen was joined on stage by renowned vocalists China Moses (who flew in from New York) and Terri Walker, award-winning saxophonist Camilla George, alongside a chamber quartet, a group of Cornish professionals, community performers and a specially formed choir.

It was brilliant to see some of the young performers from our open access dance programme perform, as well as create the choreography. Behind the scenes we provided work experience too as the 40-strong cast had their hair and make up done by students from Cornwall College, St Austell.

This incredible ensemble also enjoyed a sound track and the use of digital MI.MU Gloves (wearable tech that maps movement and sound) created by Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap.
Carleen had a gem of an idea and we simply nurtured it in collaboration with her, drawing on and further developing our ability to produce innovative work that people want to see.

This show was a unique spectacle for everyone involved and a landmark work in Carleen’s illustrious career. As for the team and I here at the Hall, it was an inspiration for how we produce new work with different artists in future.

All I can say is, let’s create more and watch this space.

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SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE – RAISING THE CURTAIN ON THEATRE MISCONCEPTIONS

By HELEN TIPLADY Deputy Creative Director

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to the theatre. Or to a theatrical or live experience. Because surely everyone’s been to the theatre?

Whilst research shows that more people attend the theatre than football matches, for some stepping into a theatre is daunting. It can be perceived as a club for other people.

What are the rules? Is it like cinema? Can I go for a pee? What do I wear? What if I’ve got nobody to go with? What if I don’t like the show? These are the kind of questions we get asked.

Our goal is to make the experience of coming to the theatre one that everyone can enjoy. That’s why we try to answer these questions in our pre-show visitor briefings.

Behind the scenes of Swan Lake

Removing the barriers

There are many reasons some people haven’t yet made it through our doors.

Cost and convenience are the tip of the iceberg. Since 2016, we’ve been running a ticket bank scheme, thanks to support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This scheme allows us to subsidise tickets for people who’ve not been able to access our theatre before.

A dress rehearsal of Peter Pan, attended by children from the Oncology ward at Treliske

On reopening the newly transformed HfC in 2021, we relaunched the scheme as the Community Culture Club, supported by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. In this instance it’s Levelling Up investment doing exactly what was intended. It means that more people can enjoy our programme.

We fully recognise that going to the theatre may not be high on everyone’s agenda. The cost-of-living crisis may mean money is tight for many people. Rural isolation, poor transport, childcare costs, poverty, illness, loneliness and/or social anxiety may also be contributing factors.

Attracting first-time visitors

To attract first-time visitors, we’re targeting areas and postcodes in Cornwall where people are deemed less likely to attend a cultural event or theatre. We’re able to monitor and measure attendance, which informs how we go about engaging potential new audiences. We want to build on the 2,000 people that have already seen a show through our ticket bank scheme since 2022. And our pre-show visitor briefings help alleviate any fears or worries folk might have, particularly if it’s their first time in a theatre.

Young dancers perform on our stage during our Youth Celebration Weekend

After a show we also host a workshop, so people can talk through what they’ve seen. In addition, we’re offering people the chance to make their own work after their visit if that’s something they want to do. A celebratory showcase of all the work created is earmarked for 2024.

Open to all

We are both excited and realistic about what we can achieve, but we hope our Community Culture Club makes a difference to those it aims to attract. There are different barriers for different people. But one trip to the theatre could be the best night someone has had for a long time – and isn’t that a wonderful prospect.

Rambert Dance Company rehearsals

I’ve seen so many people enjoy what HfC has to offer. And as a team we’re motivated to ensure as many people as possible get to experience our theatre and programme. For example, we worked with social prescribers to arrange a visit for a group of recently-bereaved spouses who felt they couldn’t go to the theatre on their own. In a different way, we’re working with Ukrainian refugees to provide language workshops and visits. And amongst others we’ve welcomed groups from the deaf community too.

Magical moments

To be honest, before I worked at HfC, I was a little sniffy about some of the programme. I understand more so now that we need to provide our audiences with variety. And whilst some shows might not be your taste or mine, it’s important to have a diverse programme.

Seeing and hearing the auditorium fizz when it’s full of people is always a magical moment. I get goosebumps every time. It’s a cliché, but theatre and dance really changed my life – and I want everyone to have the same opportunity to experience it.

Meet and greet with the cast of Joss Arnott’s Tin Man

For me it’s about people knowing that the power of performance can be theirs.

Being brave and coming to the Cornwall Playhouse is the first step. I’m so proud of what our Community Culture Club has achieved so far. There is something for everyone at Hall for Cornwall. I hope more people take that step and enjoy the first of many magical moments of their own.

Photos by Hugh Hastings.

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Sir Tim Rice Reveals Secrets from His Lifelong Career in Musical Theatre

James Rampton chats to Sir Tim Rice about his life, career and forthcoming UK theatre tour My Life In Musicals – I Know Him So Well.

Q: What great news that you are touring the country with your terrific new show, My Life In Musicals – I Know Him So Well. What made you want to go on the road?

A: I’ve done quite a few shows like this, mainly for charities. And then I was offered a fairly regular gig on a cruise liner, and I really enjoyed doing that. The show would be me chatting, introducing the songs, most of which I’m very happy to say are quite well known, and telling what are, I hope, amusing entertaining stories about how each song happened. I had a live band and two female singers and two male singers who between them would bash out the vocals. It was tremendous fun.

Q: What happened next?

A: We did a trial run of four dates in England in February last year, and they went pretty well. So, the producers recklessly said, “We’d like to put together a longer tour,” which is what’s happening in April. I’m really looking forward to it!

Q: Do you get nervous before going on stage?

A: If I’m honest, I don’t really get nervous. Obviously, if something begins to go slightly wrong, which hasn’t really happened, then you suddenly start panicking. But it’s not as if I have to remember any lines. It’s meant to be a sort of fireside chat with songs that most people will know. If you’re straightforward and not trying to be too clever, and you’ve got great singers and a great band, which I have, then it works.

Q: Are there any occasions where you get nervous?

A: The only time I got quite nervous was last February when I was worried about falling over because I had just had a new hip put in. The doctors had said, “Don’t do anything for six weeks,” and I was doing the shows just under four weeks after the operation. Some of the theatres on that brief tour were on a rake, so I had to be careful there. I found this quite smart stick – I was able to brandish it at times. I even did some conducting with it. As I wielded my stick like a conductor, I’d say, “Right, lads, let’s go with this one.”

Q: I understand that you sing during My Life in Musicals – I Know Him So Well

A: That’s right. I sing when I talk about I Don’t Know How to Love Him, which is a romantic song from Jesus Christ Superstar. Its original title was Kansas Morning. The tune existed way before the show. Andrew and I wrote it hoping to get a hit record with it. Music publishers quite liked the song, and they said, “We’ll send this out to various artists,” but it never got recorded. And the reason it never got recorded, I now realise, is that the words were not really good. They were a bit stupid. But the tune was fantastic. It’s quite encouraging – and I talk about this in the show.

Q: Tell us more

A: So, I perform this song Kansas Morning, which is the same tune as I Don’t Know How to Love Him, just to give an example of a really bad lyric I’ve written. I make the point that a bad lyric can kill a good tune. But if you have a good lyric and a good tune, then both can shine. Equally, if you have a great lyric and a tunesmith doesn’t come up with a great tune, that could also kill the song. But the key thing is that both halves have got to be good. For example, The Beatles’ song Yesterday was originally called Scrambled Eggs. That would not have been very commercial!

Q: Do you enjoy interacting with your fans at the shows?

A: Yes. It’s really nice to meet people. I wouldn’t say I’m like the Rolling Stones would be after a show! But you always get a very nice group of people coming round backstage. They always seem to dig up photographs and record sleeves either that I’ve never seen, or that are from early 1970s. Some of it is really interesting. At the shows we did in February, we got everyone standing at the end and singing along to Any Dream Will Do. It’s lovely that stuff I wrote half a century ago is still hitting home.

Q: Is it a very gratifying experience to hear an entire audience singing along to your songs?

A: I’m glad they know the words as that’s the only bit I’ve done! Although funnily enough, almost the most popular bit of Any Dream Will Do is when everybody goes, “Ah, ah, ah, ah” – that’s the one bit I didn’t write! But yes, it’s a very nice feeling. I tend to think I’m very lucky. I’ve had very good tunes, but also most of the stuff that’s gone well has come from a very good initial idea, which in turn usually means a great story. And if you have a great story, like Jesus or Joseph or Eva Peron or Hamlet for The Lion King, it inspires you to write something better than if you were just writing a random, out-of-context song. I’m not very good at that because I keep thinking, “Why am I doing this, other than in the hope of getting a hit, which is not really the best reason to write something?” I like to have a character in a certain situation.

Q: Can you give us an example?

A: A song that’s become very popular is Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina. If I’d sat down to write a lyric for that wonderful tune and the idea of Eva Peron had never existed, for a start I would not have come up with Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, which is an interesting title. Also, I would not have come up with a song which is really a kind of political statement doubling as a love song. It’s a very dishonest, cynical speech. One critic at the time said, “Well, that song is just a string of cliches.” And I thought, “That’s exactly what it’s meant to be”. It was written not as a pop song, but as an insincere political speech. It was an interesting song for me in that it’s a combination of rather corny emotions – “Please love me” – and manipulation of the audience at the same time. And I would never have come up with that without a story to start with.

Q: When you’re working on a musical, is the story always paramount, then?

A: Yes. When we were creating Evita, for example, both the composer and the lyricist had to say, “Right, in this scene Evita is trying to seduce Peron. Therefore, we don’t want an oom-pah-pah song. We want a sinuous tune.” I think Evita is Andrew’s best score, and time and again he would come up with a melody and ideas for orchestration which would suit the storyline at that point. So, story is always king.

Q: Is that the secret to writing successful musicals?

A: Yes. I think with any great musical, you’ve got to have a great story. That’s the key. Look at Oliver! It’s such a great story, and Lionel Bart wrote wonderful songs. He wrote the words and the music – quite an achievement! All the great musicals – My Fair Lady, West Side Story – have terrific stories. Even Mamma Mia which, of course, has such wonderful songs, has a very good story. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it really works. You set out your stall of what the story is and what the characters are going to grapple with at the beginning. If you can get that settled in the first five or 10 minutes of the show, then it absolutely works.

Q: You have still had some success with pop songs, haven’t you?

A: Yes. I’ve written quite a few individual songs and some of them, even if I say so myself, are nice songs. The best ones have something to hang the song on, like The Winter’s Tale, which I wrote with Mike Batt for Christmas. In that case, you’re writing a song about Christmas, so wasn’t just, “I love you, darling” or “I miss you.” It was rather a sad song with a Christmas setting. It got a lot of airplay and was a very big hit for David Essex, who interpreted it brilliantly.

Q: Can you put into words what it is like working with a great composer like Sir Elton John?

A: It’s amazing because I gave him the lyrics and he composed the music from them on the spot. Sometimes when I have written a lyric without a tune, I have got to be very careful not to get too long-winded. But if you’ve got a tune ready, it keeps you precise. You’ve got to say something in nine syllables, and it’s nearly always better to say something in nine syllables, rather than in nine words, or nine sentences. But Elton just took the lyrics, and it worked. On Circle of Life, he made it even better. He just got it immediately. He instantly understood that the lyrics needed a fairly dramatic musical interpretation.

Q: Did he request any additions to your original lyrics?

A: Yes. He did ask at one point for an extra line. He was building up this wonderful crescendo, which eventually ends up in, “Circle, circle of life.” I wasn’t normally present when he wrote the tune, but on this occasion, he said, “Come along to the studio.” Had I not been there, I don’t think the song would have been quite as good. So, when Elton asked for one more bar to get to the climax in the best way possible, off the top of my head, I suggested, “On the path unwinding”, which is a nice phrase and probably a subconscious lift from The Beatles’ Long and Winding Road. But it worked so well. It was extraordinary. It was perhaps a stroke of luck, but it completed the song perfectly.

Q: Is it quite a moving experience for you to see your wonderful words taken into another dimension by the music?

A: Yes, it’s very exciting. When you finish a lyric at home at 2am, you don’t know if the words are wonderful or just trite or wrong or unoriginal. You don’t really know because you’ve had no other opinion. But if a great composer like Elton approves of them, wants to work with them and comes up with a great melody – be it a light-hearted thing like I Just Can’t Wait to Be King or something more serious like – you think, “Well, it must have something because Elton is brilliant at what he does, and he’s been around quite a long time.” So that’s really the clue.

Q: Of all of the marvellous songs you’ve written, do you have a favourite?

A: That’s very difficult. It is like being asked who your favourite child is! It sounds very arrogant to say so, but there are quite a lot I like. I would not say any one of them is the best, though. I like High Flying, Adored from Evita, and Heaven on Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar works well, too. Anthem from Chess is good as well. That song was sung in English at the Nobel Prize annual dinner in Stockholm some years ago. It was great to see it sung by a very large choir and orchestra in front of all those Nobel people. Nobody invited us to the show, mind!

Q: Do you have a favourite song by someone else, perhaps that you wish you’d written yourself?

A: Oh, there are lots, but The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel is pretty high on my list. I love a lot of rock and roll songs like Summertime Blues. I think Gee, Officer Krupke from West Side Story is brilliant, and most of My Fair Lady is wonderful, too. Great artists like Elton have so many fabulous tunes. My favourite Elton song is Sacrifice. I love that.

Q: What did you do before you became a writer?

A: I did a couple of summers working at a petrol station. At the end of one stretch, the forecourt manager asked if I would fancy becoming a car salesman because he thought I had some potential. But I thought, “No, I don’t think this is the career for me. I don’t think I’m ever going to have a life in cars.”

Q: How did you first meet Andrew Lloyd Webber?

A: I’d had one pop song recorded by a group called The Nightshift – Jeff Beck was in their lineup for a while. I wrote the music as well as the lyrics. But the song was not a hit. So, I was looking at other opportunities. Then this publisher I knew said he was working with a young man who was very talented and wanted to write for the theatre and maybe I would be interested in working with him. And so, I went round to see Andrew, and that was it really. We immediately hit it off. It was pretty clear to me that he was really rather good. I didn’t know much about theatre, which was perhaps a plus because I wasn’t completely tied down by a feeling that I had to do a show in a certain way. I didn’t know enough about it. But I think the combination of my ignorance and his expertise in the area worked quite well. I’d always wanted to write. I enjoyed writing songs and poems and things. Mainly I was just an amateur, though. But Andrew already had a show in mind. The idea didn’t work out in the end, but it was enough to show us that we could work together. We were very lucky. We found each other, and it just worked. You can’t really audition for it. All you can do is actually write a show.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: It’s probably my collection of Wisden cricketers’ almanacs. I’ve got a complete set, which I’m quite pleased with. I bought them for 750 quid quite a long time ago, and they’ve turned out to be very good investment, although I’d never dream of selling them.

Q: You have an abiding passion for cricket. What is it that you love about the game?

A: A lot of theatre people love it. It is quite theatrical. It usually features one or two stars, who change throughout the game. The batsman is the star for a while, and then it’s the bowler’s turn. Sometimes a big player will leap unexpectedly into the action. But it’s a bit like a play where you have one or two leads, and everybody else is involved, but you’re not quite sure how the new player will feature.

Q: What other aspects of the game do you relish?

A: I love the fact that after five days it can end in a draw – Americans in particular can’t understand that. A Test match is like a soap opera happening for real in the background. Sometimes you go to the ground to watch it. Sometimes it’s on the radio or telly in the background. It doesn’t matter if it’s 25 minutes of not much happening or even two hours of not much happening because that’s what life is about. It’s nothing happening and then suddenly, it’s, “Wow, what was that?”

Q: What else is appealing about a draw in cricket?

A: When most of us are on our deathbeds, we probably wouldn’t think, “My life has been a fantastic triumph from start to finish.” Nor would most of us think, “My life has been an absolute disaster, everything’s gone wrong.” Most people at the end of their life would think, “Well, I had a few ups and downs, but I’ve come out even-Stevens, a draw.” Cricket is the only game where after a long period of play, you end up with a draw as the result – and I always maintain a draw is a result. In so many really exciting games of cricket, the batsman is holding out the end, even though his or her team is on paper coming a distant second. But after all that, it’s a draw, and that’s great. By contrast, if Arsenal are playing some totally unknown team, and they’re eight-nil up with three minutes to go, you know who’s going to win. It won’t be a draw! Cricket is unique in that.

Q: What other hobbies do you have?

A: I read a lot. I swim a bit. I enjoy watching Pointless, but I don’t stay in every day to watch it. Funnily enough, I’ve just recorded five Countdown programmes, which go out in February. They say, “Welcome to our Valentine’s Day programme,” and you think, “Hang on, it’s only December!”

Q: What are you working on now?

A: We had a show some time ago in the West End called From Here to Eternity. We got quite good reviews, but it only ran for six months. But an American director did it a couple of times in upstate New York, just because he loved it, and it went rather well. So, we have done a little bit of rewriting on it, and it’s opening in Milwaukee in February. So that’ll show if it has any potential in America. If it works, great. Also, Michael Eisner, my old friend from Disney, and I are trying to produce a series on King William IV, who is an unknown king who has not been covered before.

Q: What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t been such a wonderful and successful lyricist?

A: I probably would have ended up as a record company executive. But by now, I would be out of a job because records don’t really exist anymore!

Q: Is there one phrase you would use to sum up your career?

A: An accident!