My latest project is a series of one- or two-hander mini-musicals, each one telling someone’s personal story. A receptionist’s first ever singing lesson; a blogger whose life-coaching has unexpected consequences; a hotel guest who’s checked in with no plans to check out again … every character has a tale to tell, and all those tales are linked, somehow, to the others. The first selfie introduces us to Melody Smart, who finds her encounter with a singing teacher unexpectedly traumatic. ‘Melody’ played to full houses at the Old Fire Station’s Crisis Café, the Jam Factory and the Jericho Tavern in Oxford, before hopping over to Ross-on-Wye’s Phoenix Theatre for another sell-out show, and rounding off our local tour with a performance at the unique Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon . Here’s some of the audience feedback from those shows:
‘Brilliantly written and superbly executed’ ‘Moving, funny, fascinating, absorbing’ ‘Flawlessly performed’ ‘Poignant, funny, painful, uplifting and deeply human’ ‘Amazing story-telling’
—and a review by arts writer Nicola Lisle on her blog Oxfordshire Classical Music.
Melody’s London debut at the Phoenix Arts Club, and her week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, have been postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, watch this space for news of Online@theSpaceUK’s virtual fringe festival in August. Among 80 video shows, the festival will feature four contributions from Three Chairs and a Hat, including an extract from MELODY, and an introduction to YouTube life-coach Lady M, next in line for the Selfies.
As the ENB’s Dance for Parkinson’s workshops are on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Associate Artists who lead Oxford’s sessions have gone online as MuMo Creative to fill the gap. Roosa Leimu-Brown, Louisa Dalton and I have been on a steep learning curve, devising and recording video workshops based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and it’s been wonderful to see and participate with our DfP friends every Monday. The ENB programme can be glimpsed along with our other hubs and the ENB’s company dancers in this short film, and Oxford’s class is featured in this film by one of our funding supporters, the National Postcode Lottery. A regular participant, screenwriter Paul Mayhew-Archer, is currently developing a fictional film inspired by our classes—watch this space!
It’s been a privilege to work with talented dance practitioner Danielle Teale, creator of the DfP programme, on a variety of projects: leading a weekend of DfP workshops in Glasgow for Scottish Ballet, and an introductory course for DfP teachers at the People Dancing conference in De Montfort University, Leicester; and, along with dancer Sarah Lewis and musician Amy Mallett, participating in devised opera The Catchpole Chronicles in Snape Maltings. The physical and psychological benefits of music, movement and imagination are increasingly recognised by the medical profession, and their effects on our participants in every session are an absolute joy to see.
Verity – ditched at her wedding, nagged by her mum, hates her job … and it’s only Monday. My 90-minute musical gives a glimpse of Verity’s life, friends and family, with a lot of songs along the way. After a premiere to full houses at the Old Fire Station in Oxford in 2014, Verity came back for a re-run in July 2018 at Oxford High Drama Studio, before making her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, where audience feedback was wonderful and we were rewarded with a four-star review from The Mumble!
Here are some quotes from that review:
‘…a veritable modern masterpiece’ … ‘an extremely talented bunch’ … ‘Nia’s piano playing … pretty much perfect’ … ‘she rhymes like a rapper’… ‘A fabulous piece on so many levels’
And here are some audience reactions:
‘I loved it! Such great performances from everyone, and fab music.’
‘I really enjoyed the story, the fantastic singing and the slick presentation – very humorous, with some comical dance moves …’
‘A brilliant show—really enjoyed it’
‘It was absolutely bloody brilliant!’
To hear some songs from the show click here — or see video clips of the live performance on my Youtube channel.
VERITY scores and scripts are available for hire. If your group or society would like to stage it, go to the Contacts page and drop me a line for more information.
Opera Anywhere’s touring productions have entertained audiences around the country in theatres, schools, village halls, cowsheds and even an air hangar. Some shows feature locally recruited chorus singers; others follow workshops with schoolchildren, who then join in the action. I have great fun as the MD and pianist, and along with flautist Nick Planas, percussionist Dave Hadland and cellist Rosie Burchett I enjoy the challenge of accompanying a production where anything might happen! The programme includes operettas and operas by Gilbert & Sullivan, Puccini, Mozart and Humperdinck, and several modern one-act operas, including Menotti’s The Telephone, Samuel Barber’s mini-opera A Hand of Bridge, William Walton’s The Bear, and Menotti’s The Old Maid And The Thief. For 2019 we add ‘Hansel & Gretel’ to the ever-increasing Opera Anywhere repertoire.
Oxford audiences have met poor Verity, and soon she’ll travel to Edinburgh in my musical about her life after being jilted at the altar. Now prepare to meet the groom who changed his mind, in DEXTER—the prequel that gives us his version of events. New characters such as Grace, seeking a good home for her arms-dealing legacy, and Moira Day, whiskey-drinking entrepreneur, join some familiar faces as we discover a few answers and a lot more questions about the man who did her wrong … Details to follow!
Ellie Aldegheri’s company, Lunas Dance, gave a superb performance at the Old Fire Station in 2014, based on the theme of Time. I was delighted to play my piece, Time Was, Time Is, Time Will Be, along with singers Rebecca Martin, Hope McNamara and Cat Blagrove, drummer Dave Hadland, bassist Mark Hooper and flautist Nick Planas. We loved playing live for the dancers, and Nick even became an unwitting dance partner for Ellie!
Lunas Dance and Nick Planas were reunited in October 2016 — but this time Nick was composer and MD of a delightful children’s ballet, The Hare & The Tortoise, and Lunas were joined by an enthusiastic troupe of children. I joined a small orchestra as keyboard-player for three performances of this hour-long work, narrated by Johnny Allison, which follows the competitors through a series of misadventures involving a drunk panto donkey, a traffic policeman, a gang of rapping rats and waltzing skunks, among others …
Blue Skye Thinking is a charity set up in the name of Skye Hall by his parents, Sally and Andrew. Skye was a lively, lovely boy who died as the result of the radical treatment received for an aggressive brain tumour, and the charity raises funds for research into more appropriate treatment for children with cancer. Sally, Andrew and Skye’s little brother Jesse have worked with astounding courage and energy to promote their campaign Loom to the Moon, inspired by Skye’s curiosity about the number of loom bands it would take to reach the moon. In collaboration with his favourite magician, Simon Says, I’ve written a magical musical based on the campaign, which will tour children’s hospital wards to entertain the patients and draw attention to the charity’s work. Loom to the Moon, the musical, tells the story of Skye’s visit to Simon’s magic shop, and how he finds a way to visit his mum on the moon—with songs, puppets and jaw-dropping magic tricks along the way. Here’s one of the songs from the show, performed by children from Dr Radcliffe’s CE primary school (conducted by Guy Brigg), with me on piano, Dave Hadland on drums and sound recordist Oli Whitworth on bass guitar: