THREE CHAIRS & A HAT

 
Don’t get me wrong, I love West End glitz as much as anyone. My infatuation with musical theatre started in earnest at the age of 12, watching Fred & Ginger movies and Busby Berkeley extravaganzas on the TV. A good, old-fashioned, no-expense-spared show can still make my heart beat faster. But when it comes to staging my own work, my passion is for creating stories and situations using only the bare minimum of set, props and costumes, along with maximum imagination.
Just as well, too: my budget doesn’t stretch to anything more. So Three Chairs and a Hat seems a fitting way to describe the small-scale musicals I’ve written and staged, with the help of a massively talented group of performers and backstage magicians.
 
Musicals staged by Three Chairs and a Hat include Verity, Daddy’s Girls, and my verse play built around the music of Kurt Weill, Smoke & Mirrors. In 2019 we introduced MELODY, a one-act musical with a cast of two creating a world of characters. Melody Smart is a cheerful hotel receptionist who wins a singing lesson in the staff raffle—and finds her carefully constructed life unravelling to reveal secrets, passions, and more than a few buttered digestives. MELODY has played in Oxford, Abingdon and Ross-on-Wye.
 
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_4836-copy-421x600.jpgReviews

‘A really compelling piece of theatre’
‘Nia Williams is a gifted and imaginative storyteller’
‘Poignant, thought-provoking and utterly engrossing’
‘Amazing storytelling, clever lyrics and music’
‘Moving, funny, fascinating, absorbing’ 
‘Well written, well directed, well acted—loved it’ . —Nicola Lisle, Oxfordshire Classical Music.

Audience feeback
‘Brilliantly written and superbly executed’
‘Moving, funny, fascinating, absorbing’
‘Flawlessly performed’
‘Poignant, funny, painful, uplifting and deeply human’
‘Amazing story-telling’
‘Utterly engrossing’

Watch this space for MELODY: the movie! 

SHAKESPEARE (SHE/HER)

A talented cast of 15 women, directed and filmed by Wayne T Brown, brings Shakespeare’s female characters into contemporary contexts in this 35-video project. Launching with a video at 7pm every day on international theatre platform Scenesaver on Friday 15th October, Shakespeare (She/Her) has already had great reviews from the Edinburgh and Brighton online fringe festivals, and will be showcase at the Equality Shakespeare Festival in February 2022, a digital initiative from The Shakespeare Institute and University College London to foster equality across race, gender and class.
Reviews:
‘An insightful piece of theatre … powerful … style and feisty passion’—Broadway Baby ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
‘Simple snapshots going straight to the heart of each of the women’—LouReviews ⭐️⭐️⭐️
‘Fresh, innovative …a fast-paced production that is sure to keep viewers on their toes’—Theatre Weekly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
‘witty, arresting, poignant and powerful … be prepared to see Shakespeare’s women in a completely new light’—Dr Chris Laoutaris, The Shakespeare Institute

Click the links below to see our other digital theatre and animation productions:

LADY M: MIDDAY HAGS—the first episode of an animated version of Lady M, a musical based on a vlogger with a past. 
Selected as part of the Toronto Lift-Off Film Festival, 2021
LADY M: MR KING—episode two introduces us to the eccentric boss of Hannigan’s Department Store
Finalist, Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift, 2021
Semi-Finalist, Stockholm Short Film Festival, 2021
Award of Distinction, Canada Shorts Film Festival, 2021

THREE STAGES — an exploration of loss, love and friendship in verse and song; featuring Matthew Allison
Reviews:
‘Poetic, musical meditations on the experiences of loss and ageing, they are meditative and honest.’—Donna Kaye Speaks
‘Evocative, reflecting the confusion and sense of life’s fragility … a gentle sense of rueful regret and puzzlement … very moving’—British Theatre Guide
‘Simple yet hauntingly wonderful  … tremendously well performed … a trio of softly spoken yet deep and meaningful pieces of art’—Fringe Review

HAUNTED—a dramatised version of my short story about isolation and obsession. Do you believe in ghosts?
Honorable Mention, Best Mobile Short, Independent Shorts Awards, Los Angeles 2021
Semi-Finalist, Indie Short Fest April 2021
Reviews:
‘A strong script and imaginative use of technology make “Haunted” compelling viewing—British Theatre Guide
‘Nia Williams deploys a poetic knack for helping the audience visualise the frantic, whirling colours of her character’s fixations’—Broadway Baby
‘Lyrical in spades … Williams’ presence alone is enough to ensnare viewers’—The Wee Review

THE SINGING LESSON—Guy Brigg and Marilyn Moore as Evangeline Gibson and Melody Smart in an extract from Melody. Can one Zoom singing lesson help Melody rediscover her voice? Directed by Wayne T Brown.

LADY M—Susanne Hodgson is the life coach you ignore at your peril: a 21st-century Lady Macbeth, issuing online advice and confessions. Directed by Alice Evans.
Review:
‘This is a snippet of a future show … and if this trailer is anything to go by … then Lady M certainly promises to deliver’—Broadway Baby

PAMELA DRYSDALE’S LOCKDOWN—Three Chairs performer Jane Hainsworth demonstrates her writing talents for writing in this one-woman comedy of errors about the unintended consequences of Lockdown on a naughty weekend away.
Review:
‘The quirky approach makes going for a walk on the wild side with Pamela worthwhile’—British Theatre Guide

VERITY is a 90-minute musical about one woman’s ordinary disasters. After playing to full houses in Oxford in 2014 and again in 2018, Verity made her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, where audience and press feedback was wonderful!

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’—The Mumble ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Audience feedback
‘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 the Three Chairs and a Hat Youtube channel.

Scores and scripts of DADDY’S GIRLS, VERITY and MELODY are available for hire. If your group or society would like to stage one of these shows, go to the Contacts page and drop me a line for more information.

For more details about Three Chairs and a Hat you can:
– our Facebook page and give us a Like
– follow us on Twitter and Instagram
– take a look at our YouTube channel
– sign up for our occasional emails about current shows, forthcoming shows and shows that are as yet just a twinkle in the eye …

ONE, TWO, THREE, AND …

The year’s schedule usually involves playing keyboard/piano and musical direction for a number of shows, and it looked as if 2020 would be no exception. Then, as we all know, a certain vicious virus changed everything. Key workers, carers, families, victims of the virus waged a traumatic and relentless daily battle. Businesses struggled and, in some cases, failed to survive. Arts venues and livelihoods faced a deeply uncertain future. Those who work in the arts know that they are not just about having a bit of fun (vital though that is). Music, dance, theatre, literature—these are all ways of expressing our humanity, learning to work together, enhancing physical and mental well-being, understanding life. And the amateur and professional arts worlds are meshed together: they cannot survive without each other. Those in the industry never stopped their creativity and optimism. New initiatives evolved, and I was lucky enough to contribute to many and various digital projects  including online workshops and videos introducing school students to opera and operetta.

It was a very special moment when we returned to live theatre—first out of doors, then the indoor stage. I’m currently involved in MDing and accompanying touring opera shows and playing for recitals and musical theatre shows, as well as leading workshops in person again.

Science and art together make life liveable. It’s a huge relief to get back into rehearsal rooms, theatre spaces—and even the howling gales and downpours of the outdoor performance.
Altogether, now—ready, AND …!

READ ALL ABOUT IT!

I’ve written seven novels and many short stories. The most recent novels—Touched, Birdcage, Hidden Gems and Breakage—are published by Gurning Gnome. Click here for the Facebook page, and here to see my Amazon page—or click on any of the book covers at the foot of the homepage. For more information, including reviews and news of the gnomefest video literary festival, go to the Words menu on my homepage, and select Fiction.

My latest novel , published by Gurning Gnome, introduces Robin’s eccentric family and a cast of quirky supporting characters, including a nine-year-old boy who talks to the birds and the ghost of a ranting poet.  It’s available as paperback or ebook.
If you enjoy it—and even if you don’t—please contribute to the Amazon reviews. Writing is a two-way process, and I’d love to hear your side of the conversation.

Here’s some of the feedback received from readers of Gurning Gnome titles:

‘Complex and delightful … Williams once again creates a world entire and convincing’ 

‘A modern-day fairytale … gently explores the continuum of sanity with sharp humour, novelty and insight’ 

‘An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.’

‘Loved it. Interesting how dangerous revisiting the past can be.’

‘Heartbreaking. Compelling. Acutely observed. Effortlessly and subtly witty …  beautifully and skilfully crafted.’

BECCA


Singer Rebecca Allison (Martin) has been my musical partner in a bewildering range and number of projects. As Mezzopiano we performed opera, musical theatre, recitals, concerts and shows, including my verse play Smoke & Mirrors, based on the music of one of our favourite composers, Kurt Weill. Becca’s portrayal of twin sisters across four decades—singing in several languages—was a tour de force. She was an inspiration and a very dear friend. Becca died suddenly on 21st March 2016 after contracting sepsis. I’m immensely grateful to have known and worked with this lovely woman, and to have many recorded memories of her beautiful voice.

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Here are two tracks of us performing together: Lost, from my new musical Melody; and No-one Is Alone, by Stephen Sondheim, a song with particular meaning for Becca and her family.

MAKING MUSICALS

The African savannah was re-created in Didcot’s Cornerstone arts centre, at the latest Musical In A Day children’s workshop. Joining me for a day exploring ‘The Lion King’ was dancer Rhonda Sparrey, and together we led fifteen 6- to 9-year-olds through the story, songs, dialogue and movement of the hit musical, even making good use of break-times to draw characters and events for our pop-up gallery. At the end of a busy and creative day our hard-working cast presented a potted version of the musical for their parents. This workshop followed several others in the same series: ‘Discover Annie’, ‘Discover Oliver!’, and ‘Discover Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’.

Pictured are the children’s technicolour illustrations for ‘Joseph’ and some of the home-made masks we used to create the Lion Kingdom.

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I’ve also had great fun working with Creation Theatre on their holiday workshop weeks, most recently collaborating with drama leads Eloise Sheffield and Katie Blackwell to devise a piece of musical theatre with a group of 9- to 12-year-olds. At the end of the week they performed ‘Villains’ to an appreciative audience of family and friends, complete with original songs such as ‘Stay at home Wolf’ and the Stepmother Rap.