After an unashamedly lazy period of blogging radio silence, I have some news of the jobs variety to share, in the hope that I'll get to see some of your lovely faces soon!
First up, I'm very excited to be heading back to the Southwark Playhouse (for another show set in San Francisco... hello Dogfight memories.) I'll be appearing in The Diary of a Teenage Girl from March 1st-25th. And drumroll please; it's a play. No singing. None. Hoorah!
The play recounts the coming-of-age adventures of Minnie Goetze, a San Francisco teenager who begins a secret affair with her mother’s boyfriend. I play said mother; ouch. Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, which was later turned into a major award-winning motion picture film starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård and Kristen Wiig, Marielle Heller’s explosive play is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment. Which is why I like it so much. You so often see these stories from a male perspective and it's deeply refreshing to read such a frank and unflinching account from the other side. Required viewing for all, but especially you young women out there. Tickets start at £12, purchase link below.
Also, I'm ridiculously excited to be making my Friday Night is Music Night debut very soon, alongside Doug LeBreque, Debbie Gravitte and Matt Ford. Tune in to BBC radio 2 at 8pm on February 14th for a glorious Gershwin tribute concert, with the wonderful Larry Blank conducting. Seriously, those songs are stunning and with the BBC concert orchestra playing them? No words.
Lastly, I'll be singing again for one of my favourite contemporary composers, the wonderful Jonathan Reid Gealt at his concert on Feb 16th at the Hippodrome, Leicester Square. Jonathan is one of the nicest human beings I've ever met and lord, but he writes a good song. I'll be performing alongside Natalie Weiss, Craig Colton and Andy Coxon, with other guests to be announced. What's not to like? Come along!
Oh, and I'm also looking forward to workshopping The Wicker Husband by Darren Clark and Rhys Jennings very soon, in development with Mercury Musicals. It was the 2016 winner of the MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award in 2016. Afraid you can't see that one... yet. But if you'd like to learn more about it, there's a youtube link below!
Til next time,
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Jonathan Reid Gealt concert tickets
The Wicker Husband
And the answer? Not two gigs, but three! Get your diaries out....
First up is an evening with the lovely Will Barratt, Live at the Pheasantry on Sunday 3rd April. I recorded a couple of songs on Will's gorgeous debut album, Confessions Of A Justified Sinner last year (which is well worth a listen and can be purchased here, if you haven't already). After a sell out launch gig at The Hippodrome last summer, Will returns to knock your socks off with a selection of songs both old and new. The evening will also feature the wonderful Nadim Naaman (Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd) and Jeremy Secomb, (Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd) with a live band led by the incredible Joe Davison. All this, and you can eat pizza at the same time. What's not to like?!
Next up is the hugely popular concert series, West End Fest at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden on Sunday, 15th May. In conjunction with The MadTrust, the latest evening will feature a stellar line up of West End performers who will be tackling their favourite songs from their favourite icons in their own, inimitable way. These gigs are always great fun and you can pat yourselves on the back for doing your bit for charity whilst we belt in your face, too!
The third gig is one for the Welshies among you! I will be disembarking from the Showboat for an evening in order to perform in the opening concert of the National Eisteddfod on Friday, July 29th. Fellow guests include Only Men Aloud, Gwawr Edwards and Caryl Hughes. It's sure to be a great evening and I'm very much looking forward to a flying visit to my homeland. I'll update you with ticket information when I have it.
Hope to see you there!
Will Barratt at the Pheasantry
West End Fest
I'm absolutely thrilled that the Cotton Blossom has set sail from Sheffield's Crucible and will be docking at the New London Theatre for a limited run beginning April 9th. It was a privilege and pleasure to be a part of this production and I'm very much looking forward to sharing it with a new audience before very long.
Tickets went on sale at 10am this morning; check out our shiny new website, www.showboatmusical.co.uk for all the info you need to book!
In the meantime, get following @ShowBoatMusical on Twitter and check out our Facebook page for all the latest production news.
Hope to see some of you on the banks of the Mississippi before long!
So the courtroom drama I filmed over the summer starts going out tonight. Excuse me whilst I have a mini freakout...
Dim ond y Gwir (Nothing But The Truth) will follow law court workers as they try to balance work, life and leisure, and a number of long-held secrets will come to light, both in and out of court. In the first two episodes, we follow a child’s murder case. There are twelve episodes in the series, with each case evolving over two episodes. Other cases involve violence, arson, prostitution, burglary and euthanasia.
I play Karen McKay, a kick-ass barrister with a lousy personal life. Filming the series and working in Wales again after such a long time in London was an absolute joy and I'm excited/terrified to see what people think of it!
The program starts transmitting on S4C at 8:30pm tonight, with a repeat going out every Tuesday at 11pm. Although it was filmed in Welsh, there are subtitles available for the non-Welsh speakers amongst you! It can also be watched live on BBC iplayer and Clic, S4C's equivalent, links below.
So do me a favour and stick S4C on every TV in your house at 8:30pm for the next twelve Wednesdays. I'd really like it to get picked up for a second series. I have London rent to pay...!
Trailer and interview footage below, if you need any more convincing!
Watch live on BBC iplayer
Watch live on S4C Clic
Firstly, apologies to Sondheim for the terrible pun. Couldn't resist.
Secondly; what to do when two concerts you really want to take part in come along on the same day, at the same time? Well, where there's a will (and a great deal of goodwill on the part of others), there is fortunately a way!
To that end, I'm greatly looking forward to the return, for one day only, of one of my favourite jobs in recent memory. Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse was an incredibly special experience for all involved (and at times, a controversial one too; for a recap, see my previous blog post here). I'm thrilled that the majority of the company will be reuniting for a matinee and evening concert performance of the production in the main space at the St James on October 11th.
The problem was, at time of receiving confirmation of Dogfight in concert, I'd already agreed to take part in the launch of Jonathan Reid Gealt's new album, Whatever I Want It To Be. On October 11th. At the St James Studio...
Luckily for me, both Jonathan and the lovely Danielle Tarento have been remarkably accommodating and have worked out a plan that allows me to take part in both concerts. Having performed at the launch of Jonathan's previous album a few years ago, I can't wait to get my teeth stuck into his new material.
So, if you fancy a laugh watching me running around like a headless chicken on October 11th, come down to the St James! My eternal, undying gratitude to those who make it along to both concerts...
Oh, and just to complicate things a little more, I will have spent the entire week workshopping a new musical called Midnight, by Laurence Mark Wythe and Timothy Knapman, at, you guessed it; the St James. I may as well move in.
Hope to see some of you there!
Jonathan Reid Gealt tickets
Hello! Or helo, as the Welsh would have it... Bet you'd never have guessed without my translation, right?!
I'm going to be making a flying visit to London whilst on hiatus from filming (let's just take a moment for the utter, wanky delight I'm experiencing in having an excuse to use the word hiatus.... Sue me, it makes me happy) to sing at the launch gig of my dear friend Will Barratt's album, and I can't bloody wait for you all to hear it.
Believe me when I say that this is not your typical, MT-type-releases-album-just-because project. In addition to being an incredibly gifted singer, actor and pianist, turns out Mr Barratt is a devastatingly talented songwriter, too. Honestly, if he weren't such a good friend I'd probably have to punch him in the face.
Each and every track on the album is an original composition, in a multitude of styles, unified by the skill and sincerity with which they are written. I appear on a few songs; as perky backing vocalist, Russian hooker (really) and lastly on a song written just for me.
Now, it's kind of weird that Will can apparently read my mind (get that microchip out of me right now, Barratt). All facetiousness aside though, my lovely friend has written me the song that honestly, I wish I could've written, about the defining loss of my life so far. It's a hell of a gift to receive; of all the many songs I've recorded over the years it is hands down, my favourite and I feel incredibly privileged that I'm the first to get my grubby hands on it. Love you longtime, WB.
Enough soppy stuff! The gig will be at the Hippodrome, Leicester Square on August 9th at 7pm. In addition to Will and myself, the lineup features Ryan Molloy, Nadim Naaman, Michael Conway and a live band led by Joe Davison (who also produced the album; take my word for it, if you're after recording something yourself you will not find a better producer, the man's incredible). Knowing Will and Joe, I have no doubt the band will be as tight as a gnat's chuff and I can't wait to hear what the rest of those lovely, shiny West End men do with the songs on the bill.
There is a also Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign associated with the whole project, for which the link is below. You can purchase tickets to the gig here and if you feel so inclined, pledge towards the album, which has mostly been self-funded up to this point. Any pledges will go towards helping with the launch gig, proper promotion of the album and to film a music/dance video of one of the album tracks. There are some great rewards on offer, such as signed albums, special items from the creation of the album and private gigs. C'mon, how many more incentives must I offer?! Get involved!
Please come along and *klaxon* support new writing. I'm so proud of Will and thrilled to have played a small part in the project. I promise you it'll be a cracking night.
Kickstarter campaign; gig tickets, albums and more!
Auburn Jam production and recording studio
I've *woefully neglected* this blog, so if you're still here and reading, ta very much!
Just a quick bit of info on a couple of upcoming gigs, for those who are interested/gluttons for punishment...
First up is Symphonic Rock at the Albert Hall on May 1st. The eagle eyed/elephant memoried among you will know that it's a gig I've done numerous times before over the years. No false advertising; those of us singing are there to do some BV's and not much else, however if you fancy a night listening to the RPO tear through some classic rock songs, it's always a fun evening and a great atmosphere.
Next gig is another revisit; West End Unplugged, at the St James Studio on May 24th. The last one is still up there as one of my favourites in recent memory; the lovely Kris Rawlinson did an incredible job of re-arranging West End songs you'll likely be familiar with in ways that made them sound brand spanking new, so I can't wait to hear what he comes up with this time around! Links to book for both gigs below.
Also, I'm going to be bringing my Welsh speaking brain out of retirement and scooting off to my homeland for a few months over the summer, to shoot a new legal drama series for S4C. Looking forward to channeling my inner Ally McBeal! I'll keep you posted about transmission dates, etc when I know more.
Lastly, tune into the Oliviers on Sunday night and you might just see some of us City of Angels lot up there...!
Symphonic Rock Tickets
West End Unplugged Tickets
* = Couldn't be arsed with/had nothing remotely interesting to blog about
Hello lovely people,
Ahead of starting City of Angels rehearsals next week (which I'm ridiculously excited about) and as lots of people have been asking, I thought I'd offer up what info I have regarding tickets and how to go about getting them.
Although the initial ticket release sold out before I even knew I was going to be involved in the show, fear not; there are more to be released nearer the time, via the Barclays Front Row scheme. It's my understanding that you'll have to get in quick, but there are around 550 tickets per week yet to be sold, primarily consisting of £10 front row seats for every performance. These are released at 10am every Monday for performances two weeks later.
In City of Angels' case, the first batch of tickets go on sale on Monday, 24th November. I'll do my best to remind those interested via Twitter nearer the time, but you can also sign up for email reminders on the Donmar website, link below. Be aware that patrons may only book one pair of Barclays Front Row tickets per production.
Standing tickets are also released on the day of performance from 10am in person at the Box Office, if you're local and have no objection to an early morning...!
That's about it; I hope some of you are able to get your hands on tickets and come along!
Link to Barclays Front Row reminder alerts signup
So because it seems I've still yet to grasp the concept of taking a break, I've signed myself up for a few gigs before I get properly stuck into City of Angels!
First up on September 24th is The Story of Bart at the London Hippodrome. West End Star John Barr will be taking on the role of Lionel Bart telling you his story, joined by some very special guests performing Bart’s most unforgettable hits as well as one or two songs you haven’t heard before.
Next up on October 27th is Peter Polycarpou's Laugh and Be Happy at the Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel. Having performed in several previous incarnations of this evening of Randy Newman's songs alongside the glorious Poly, I can assure you it's a gorgeous evening (and the venue is bloody beautiful. And does cracking cocktails...!)
Links to book for the concerts are below; a very special prize to those who book both...*
*If your idea of a special prize is my undying gratitude.
John Barr sings Lionel Bart at the Hippodrome
Peter Polycarpou's Laugh and Be Happy at the Crazy Coqs
Alexander Bermange and guests at the Pheasantry
So I've been thinking. Thinking a great deal about the critical response to Dogfight, which has polarised newspaper columnists and bloggers alike in a way that no other production I've been involved in has done. Yet, this is the first time I've felt able to read reviews with genuine detachment; for I have never in my career felt so certain I was a part of something really special. A sentiment I can quite confidently state was felt across the board, by all involved in the production. It may sound arrogant to say so... But sometimes, you just know. It's in your heart, your gut and in the atmosphere of sheer joy that pervaded our rehearsal room from day one.
And so, to the critical response (spoilers ahead, for those yet to visit; fair warning!) I'm also assuming those reading hold a degree of familiarity with plot and characters.
For every five star review, every man and woman out there who adored the show, praised it to the heavens as the charming, funny, powerful, heartbreaking piece of theatre we all felt it to be; there was another who would damn the production with faint praise, for reasons frequently related to an inability to get past the misogyny they perceived the piece to be condoning.
I am a woman who proudly identifies herself as a feminist. The Everyday Sexism project, the many, many high profile women (and men) who publicly support feminism; even Beyonce's swiftly iconic turn at the VMA's recently, are all a cause for celebration. There is a very real turning of the tide happening, to my mind, as both sexes reclaim a word long stigmatised and begin to call bullshit when they smell it.
However, to those who have instantly cried misogyny at the premise of the show, who have bemoaned the marines' treatment of the women and claimed their behaviour is swept under the carpet with uncomfortable ease; I can't help but wonder if this is in some part a kneejerk reaction, maybe stemming from a sense of obligation to unequivocally condemn any and all bad male behaviour, without necessarily taking the time to try to contextualise and understand it?
Well, before you cry off with her head, let me attempt to do just that...
We are talking about a group of marines, a mere thirteen weeks into their training, about to be packed off to a country they know next to nothing of, many, many miles from home. A group of boys, some not even out of their teens. A group of scared children, the majority likely fairly uneducated, who have been drilled into turning a blind eye to the humanity of anyone but their military comrades. For how else can you demand of a group of teenage boys that they travel halfway around the world and kill with zero compunction?
They are males of the early sixties. Of Kennedy's era (the majority of the action of Dogfight occurs the day before Kennedy's assassination) the foreshadowing of which casts a desperately sad pall over their belief in their own invincibility. This was a time when equality between the sexes was not even close to being a reality. A time when Americans truly believed they were untouchable. A day later, that belief would implode and the slow erosion of the USA's unshakeable idealism would begin.
I am not condoning the men's treatment of the women of the piece, nor the revoltingly cruel nature of the dogfight itself, but neither am I able to entirely condemn them for it. It can arguably be viewed as one more step on their road to dehumanisation, of themselves and of others. I mean, this stuff actually happened, people. The dogfight was a very real marine tradition. It ain't pretty, but it's true. Shouldn't theatre, any art in fact, shine a light on the bad as well as the good?
To those concerned for the (assumed) terribly fragile feelings of those of us cast as 'ugly', I do think it worth quoting the authors' note in the script - 'the only requirement is that the audience not identify the women chosen as conventionally attractive within the context of 1963 America' (there's that magic word again, context...) Plus; jeez, we're actors. I could write all day about the sheer fun involved in playing someone who is not exactly the girl next door!
What troubles me about the hand wringing response from some quarters to the female characters is that it feels, quite frankly, almost patronising. There seems to be a willful blindness to the fact that for my money, almost all of the female characters are stronger, brighter and often more in control than their male counterparts. A fact that perhaps, just doesn't fit the narrative some seem determined to take from the show.
Rose is, by far, the most intelligent character onstage. When alerted to the true nature of the dogfight, she doesn't opt for a quiet exit, tail between her legs; instead, this shy, bright girl barely out of her teens takes a swing at her date and publicly, furiously and articulately, calls him out for his asshole behaviour. Even the song 'Pretty Funny', perhaps her lowest personal point in the show, steers clear of being entirely self pitying. She grits her teeth, refuses to shed another tear, reminds herself that tomorrow she'll 'forget to even care'. When Eddie returns to make inarticulate amends, she again calls him out on every ignorant statement he utters, every second of bad behaviour, never once letting him off the hook over the course of their evening together, opening his eyes to his own essential decency in the process. Rose is no feeble victim.
To Marcy; a woman of little education but ferocious street smarts. She is in control of her role in the dogfight and of the financial transaction involved every step of the way. Boland can insult her all he wants; she still walks away with a stomach full of free food, booze and a wad of cash. She tears into Rose's naivete in the process, expressing feminist opinions before such opinions were printed on banners and waved on marches up and down the country (albeit in slightly less fruity language, ahem). For my money, future Marcy goes back to school, gets stuck into women's lib, becomes a beloved of the oppressed, Mrs Madrigal type, taking in future Roses, growing pot on the roof. Marcy is a survivor, through and through.
Ruth Two Bears, a woman of few words (but Christ, can she pick them). Does she slink out in embarrassment on learning of the true nature of the evening? No. She calmly pours her drink over her date's head, makes her feelings crystal clear with one choice insult and (God, I hope) heads off with Marcy to continue drinking and shooting the stoical shit way into the night. More the behaviour of one utterly self possessed than one victimised.
Mama; a single mother, taking no nonsense from anyone, kind, caring, having single handedly raised Rose whilst running a business. Helpless female? What do you think?
Suzette, who seems to be having a rather glorious night with the drunken Fector. Even Chippy, who senses which way the wind is blowing and wrests back control of the situation in the whorehouse, realising it's safer and wiser to consent to one more john and be paid for it than risk the choice being taken from her. It's a terrible corner to be backed into, but she has the smarts to find her way out of it as best she can.
These women are victims of their circumstances, absolutely. However, to label them all simply as 'victim', to feel nothing but pity for them, is to deny them their strength. It's demeaning. It's reductive. I think it's inaccurate. In an outraged attempt to defend these 'pitiful' women, you do them the grave disservice of implying they are incapable of defending themselves.
The characters I truly pity in this show are the men. The BOYS. The boys who will never come back from a war they don't understand. The boys who don't know any better. The boys who cling to the mob mentality and to each other because it's the only thing that makes them feel safe, validated, powerful. The only thing that makes them feel like 'men'.
Now, let me make it very clear that I am not calling into question anyone's right to respond to a production however they see fit. It is purely the nature of the negative responses that has interested me and prompted me to scribble down my thoughts on it all, as it has so often come down to 'I dislike the men's behaviour, therefore I dislike the show.' Do you have to like the characters in a work of fiction in order to be able to see any artistic merit in it? Do you like how Richard III behaves? Medea? Do you see my point?
I'm genuinely asking. This blog is not the railing of an actor concerned their work has gone unappreciated and I sincerely hope it doesn't read that way. I am genuinely, deeply fascinated by the passionate responses, both for and against, that Dogfight has elicited. I guess I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring and become a part of the conversation. She loves a good debate...!
I'll finish by saying that for me (and I think I can safely say, for the entire company), working on this show has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I've never worked with a happier, more supportive group of people, or felt more creatively satisfied. I'm amazed and delighted that a production that has brought such happiness to the lives of all involved has hit such a nerve with audiences, for better or worse.
Below is a selection of quotes from reviews; both positive and negative, in the interests of fairness!
Curious as to what all the fuss is about? You have two weeks to find out.
15/9/14 UPDATE - Since writing this blog, a number of further articles have been written in regard to our production; links to which are included below, for those interested!
Dogfight; offensive or outspoken? - Paul Taylor, The Independent
Man bites dog as Dogfight actor hits back at critics - Mark Shenton, The Stage
Theatre Thought: Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse - Katie Brennan, Bloody Hell Brennan
Dogfight – Misogynistic, Or Just A Show About Misogynists? - James Waygood, Grumpy Gay Critic