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My Stagey Week - 13

What a week it’s been. With my 37th birthday, Mamma Mia’s 20th anniversary and the Olivier Awards, I possibly ate my body weight in cake, and certainly drank my body weight in prosecco. I also reached the milestone of seeing 100 shows so far this year. 

The week started with a trip to Cirenchester, a small market town in east Gloucestershire, 80 miles northwest of London, and now the home of the Barn Theatre. A new state of the art 200 seat theatre opened by Artistic Director Iwan Lewis last year. In it’s inaugural year it has already won the 2019 Stage Award for Best Fringe Theatre. 

I was there to meet an old friend Jamie Chapman Dixon, who I have known since I helped him produce a series of concerts in 2013, called The Singers Soiree. Jamie is now based at the Barn Theatre as a resident producer. 

As part of a new series for my You Tube channel called ‘Visits’, I aim to visit regional theatres to find out more about what work they are doing. In an MTV Cribs style, I will roam around with my camera as a representative offers me a guided tour of their venue. Jamie, and the Barn Theatre, are the first in the series. 

The theatre is stunning and has huge potential, and the entire team are clearly working hard to establish and build a brand new audience base.

Jamie trained as a performer before becoming a producer, and was a natural infront of the camera as he talked to me and showed me around the theatre. It was a fun video to make, and after the tour, Jamie treated me to dinner.

I then stayed to watch the first preview of their current show The Butterfly Lion. Written by Michael Morpurgo who wrote War Horse, and taking two actors from the National Theatre’s production of War Horse, it also uses puppetry to tell this sweet unassuming story with strong performances from a cast of six, and directed by Jessica Daniels, proving that unlike the National Theatre, here at the Barn Theatre they fully support female directors.

The Butterfly Lion is on until 4th May.

On Tuesday evening I was at the Crazy Coq to watch the second of four concerts by Scott Alan and guests this week, whilst he is visiting London. Tonight he was joined by Stuart Matthew Price, Lauren Samuels, Charlotte Wakefield and musical theatre students from Mountview, Elspeth Day-Collins and Ciaran O’Brian.

Scott is a renowned songwriter from America, who for many years has written countless songs based on his own experiences with depression and anxiety. He is seen by many as an inspiration, and I also adore much of his work. I also have a personal connection to Scott, having briefly dating him in 2015.

I joined Scott and his guests for dinner after the show, which was nice to catch up with them all. Stuart, I have known for some time too, and his voice is exceptional. It was really nice to see him back after taking some time away from performing recently. Lauren Samuels, who I’ve also met several times was also on great form, and sounded exceptional.

The two students from Mountview were also incredible, Elspeth sang the song ‘At All’ which Scott originally wrote for Cynthia Erivo and of which I have never heard anyone else perform until now, and Elspeth sounded sublime. Ciaran showed off an equally impressive voice singing one of my favorite songs of Scott’s ‘Behind These Walls’, I had fallen in love with this song after hearing Jodie Jacobs perform it. The video for that is on You Tube.

It was also a special evening for Charlotte Wakefield, who after admiring Scott’s music for over ten years, this was the first time she had met and performed with him. She took the opportunity to sing ‘Say Goodbye’ which she had performed herself ten years ago during a leaving assembly at her high school. Charlotte showed me a video of that original performance, which I uploaded together with her performance on Tuesday. You can see both of these videos now on my You Tube channel:

On Wednesday it was my big day. My 37th Birthday. I don’t normally do anything for my birthday, but thanks to this blog, I have had a really great start to this year, and really wanted to celebrate it’s achievements and to say a huge thank you to acknowledge all the support that I’ve had so far.

Presents and cards from friends had begun to come in all week, as had all the party preparations. Piano Works West End, where I recently hosted The Show Goes On cabaret series, offered me an area to host my party. My friend Sarah helped me blow up balloons and I had a seven tier tower of cupcakes. Piano Works West End also provided prosecco for the first of my guests to arrive, and surprised me with a piano shaped cake and firework.

It was really nice to see everyone who turned up, and my guests had great fun picking songs for the incredible band who played all night long.

The Piano Works West End is becoming one of my favourite late night venues, their Singeasy evenings are proving increasingly more popular as well as being a continued venue for new cabaret.

Thursday was a struggle. I had to be up at 7am for a day’s filming at the New Theatre Wimbledon, before making my way to Clapham in the evening to watch a play called Tony’s Last Tape at the Omnibus Theatre. I had never been to this theatre, so it was nice to discover it. The one man play starring Philip Bretherton, was originally performed at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2015 before spending the summer at Edinburgh Festival. It has now been resurrected for a three-week run.

I took my brother as my guest and we both enjoyed it, Bretherton delivers a commanding performance as Tony Benn.

Tony's Last Tape runs until 20th April.

On Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Layton Williams in his dressing room before his evening show. I took with me one of my cupcakes from my birthday party for him, without realising he is vegan, so he couldn’t accept it. We sat and chatted for thirty minutes. I could have easily chatted for hours. Layton is so charismatic and insightful, he’s really great to talk to.

There was so much I wanted to ask him, but I managed to cover quite a lot about his career and interests, and out of all my interviews so far, it is one of my favourites. You can watch it here:

Later that evening, I went to watch Among Angels at the Courtyard theatre. I had been personally invited to watch this by it’s writer and producer Timothy Graves, and initially I was very drawn because of it’s subject matter, chem sex. I did two writing courses at the National Theatre in 2017, where I researched and developed my own play about chem sex. I find the subject fascinating, and very complex, and have seen other productions try to tackle the topic at the Kings Head Theatre, to varying success.

The show was scheduled to start at 7.30, however by 7.45 we were still sat waiting in the corridor with no word or explanation as to why there was a delay. It was an unfortunate start.

Once we were let in, we took our seats, whilst a pre set actor spent five minutes pretending to do lines of coke whilst a song by Kylie Minogue called ‘Looking for An Angel’. Already I sunk into my seat by the level of cliché we were already being presented with.

What followed was a terribly written and badly acted play. The influences from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America were obvious, and blatant even from the title, but by attempt this is simply a poor copy.

I honestly really wanted to like this piece, or to at least be able to advocate it, as I do try to support new writing, and was grateful to have been invited.

Among Angels is in at the Courtyard Theatre until 27th April.

On Saturday I was at my 100th show this year. A brand new scratch night called Shook at Above the Arts. The sold-out show had sixteen short performances which varied included stand up comedy, musical theatre, monologues, poetry and spoken word. It was a really entertaining collection of work.

In particular Toby Marlow, the co-writer of Six was there to introduce a song that he had written for a new play he is possibly going to develop. As well as this, I met AJ O’Neill, who I had correspondence with early this week over Twitter. AJ and I are both developing musicals about transgender.

As part of the scratch night, AJ had brought along Jodie Jacobs to sing one of the songs from his musical Unicorns that Jodie will be workshopping. Jodie sounded exceptional as always, and the song itself was really good. I’m very excited to hear more from this show, and will definitely keep my eye out for it.

After this, I raced across to join friends to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Mamma Mia the Musical. Producers had thrown a huge party at the Waldolf Hotel, with Benny and Bjorn from Abba there as guests.

Mamma Mia continues to be one of my favourite shows, as well as my Mum’s, and over the years I have known a lot of friends who have been in it. It was lovely, throughout the day to see people post their old photos and memories from the show. Meanwhile at the party it was nice to see Eamonn Cox, who attended Arts Ed whilst I was also there.

Lucy May Barker who now plays Sophie had made her professional stage debut in Spring Awakening at the Novello Theatre ten years ago, and was in tears when Benny and Bjorn joined the cast for their curtain call. Lucy has been touring with Mamma Mia already for two years, where she met Philip Ryan who played Sky. The couple are now engaged to be married next year.

On Sunday I was still a little hungover from the Mamma Mia party, when I had to begin getting ready for the Olivier Awards.

I am lucky enough to have attended the awards for three years running, and always look forward to the event. This year, I bought a new bow tie from Topman, which when I got it home struggled a little bit with, realising it came with a safety pin, which I was unsure how to fasten, my slim fit trousers, were also a little tight this year, following the amount of cake I have eaten this week.

The Oliviers are a glorious celebration of theatre, and it’s always an enjoyable event, and very prestigious. The after party was again this year at the National History Museum, where Bollinger was free flowing, and the canapes consisted of steak and potatoes.

I had fun catching up with friends scattered about, and dance to Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ when it came on. I also managed to get Danny Dyer to record a video to send to my friend Hilary for her birthday. Meanwhile, I also chatted to Patti LuPone, and almost managed to get a photo with her, until someone spilt red wine down her at the optimum moment. Patti was about to erupt as the poor girl apoligised, and I realised it probably was best not to ask at that point for a photo meanwhile I did catch up with Layton Williams who looked incredible and did a great job presenting an award earlier in the evening.

I was generally pleased with the results, although I would have liked to have seen Six take home something, I do feel though it was great to at least seem them acknowledged and the girls gave an incredible performance. I chatted to Toby Marlow who brought his mum, after the ceremony and he said the same, that he was just happy to have been nominated and to have his song performed at the Royal Albert Hall.

It was brilliant to see Kyle Soller and Jonny Bailey receive awards for their performances, both gay characters. Both actors spoke beautifully in support of the LGBT community.  

During the ceremony Beverly Knight and the Arts Ed Choir sang whilst we remembered all the actors that the industry has lost this year. This was especially poignant for me, as the selection included my friend Daniel Bolton who passed away last year, aged 28. Although I knew he was to appear in the video, I was still unprepared for how overwhelming it was to see his name and picture on the screen, as Beverly sang ‘Midnight’ from Cats. It was a beautiful moment, for the beautiful spirted young man that Daniel was.

For clips and further discussion of everything I have seen this week, you can watch my accompanying video on You Tube, Vlog 13.

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