Following the death of Brian Haw, the extraordinary anti-war campaigner who camped outside the Houses of Parliament for 11 years in protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, YMT are putting on a musical about young people’s responses to the war on terror.
According to Brian Haw is a highly-charged piece of new music theatre with an important message, in light of this, Heather Welsh talks to Brian’s son Pete about how he feels about the whole thing and reveals some beautiful memories he has of his Dad.
What was your response to the idea of taking such a difficult topic and turning into a musical?
My initial thoughts were that this would be fantastic, appropriate and inspiring. It wasn't until I met the young people and professionals involved that it really hit home what an extraordinary and un-missable opportunity this would be, and after talking and spending time with the cast and crew I knew I could trust them to do an amazing job of the production. However, none of these feelings compared to actually seeing the performance, feeling the emotions, being in the stories as they unfolded ... I was literally breathless, speechless and re-heartbroken by the power and significance of the production.
Why do you think people should see the production?
To witness, experience, and understand the many ways in which my Dad inspired people and the power that one person can have if they choose to use it. To, just for a moment, peek into Dad's world through the lives of his family, and see what a wonderful man he was. To be moved by the musicality, drama and emotion of talented young people.
What do you hope this production will do for young people’s awareness of the war on terror?
I hope that young people seeing this production will become more considerate and open-minded, to realise that not every situation has a clear-cut solution. I would like them to be inspired by the power of one, but at the same time recognise the complexities of being so selfless, determined and loving. Above all, I’d like them to consider that everything possible should be done to find peaceful solutions to the critical dilemmas that they will grow up to face.
And finally, what do you remember the most about your dad?
To sum up Dad in two words: loving and determined. His deep love for his family and the children of his wider family; humanity. His tender cuddles when we went to see him, his constant words of support and encouragement. His unerring, unwavering, indefatigable spirit, against all odds, to hold our politicians to account for the life-changing decisions they make on a daily basis.
According to Brian Haw is showing at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, London from Tuesday 20 August – Thursday 22 August at 7:30pm.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place this August from the 2nd to the 26th in Scotland’s capital city.
From big names to unknown artists, the festival showcases a great selection of theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, musicals, operas, music, exhibitions and events. So with thousands of performances to pick from, Heather Welsh takes a look at just a few of the key acts you should be sure to check out!
Arthur’s Quest: A Medieval Musical
Category: Musicals and Operas
Venue: TheSpace @ Venue45
Dates/Times: 2-17 August, 15:10pm
A handful of YMTers have written, directed and are performing in a musical happening at the Fringe this year! Director Tom Kitney, writers Lydia Shaw and Ed Court and performer Ryan Heenan have all worked with YMT and are now part of the exciting cast for this vibrant British show. Arthur’s Quest is based on the medieval legend of King Arthur and with dragons, swordfights and a touch of magic there’s something for everyone. Featuring a unique, folk-influenced score and an array of interactive content, the musical follows Arthur’s story.
This Is Soap: The Improvised Soap Opera
Venue: C Theatre
Dates/Times: 31 July – 26 August, 13:15pm
Ever thought that you were living out your very own soap opera? Or that you had the best ideas to create one? Well now you can! Making a return in C Theatre’s 22nd year, this is the comedy soap that you control. The creators dramatize and improvise your very own soap opera, from Olympic storylines inspired by your suggestions to ideas from daily festival events and the world of TV soaps, every day is different! This is live, improvised “Battily inspired” (Evening Standard) soaps for you to enjoy.
Coming into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Condé Nast
Venue: City Art Centre
Dates/Times: Mon-Sat: 10:00-17:00, Sun 12:00-17:00 £5.00 (£3.50)
If you like fashion and photography, you’ll love this. The internationally acclaimed exhibition showcases over 150 rare photographs and original magazines from the Condé Nast archives. Condé Nast Publications launched the career of several famous fashion photographers via magazines like Vogue and Glamour. Spanning the last 10 decades, the exhibition displays early works by some of the biggest names in fashion photography including Helmut Newton and David Bailey as well as some newer photographers too. Strike a pose!
Snakes! The Musical
Category: Musicals and Operas
Venue: Just the Tonic at The Caves
Dates/Times: 1-25 August, 22:20pm
Suitability: 16+ (contains strong language)
Winner of the ‘Pick of The Fringe’ award at Reading Fringe Festival, this is a musical about making a musical! A group of young actors have written one based on a film about some snakes on a place, the only catch is that they need £50 million to produce it! With rave reviews so far, this show takes a closer look at modern entertainment, addresses the compromise of artistic merit for box office returns and demonstrates you should never work with (venomous) animals…!
Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Dates/Times: 1-25 August, 20:50pm
Australian rhythm and word act Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum are a mix of heart-felt vocalist/guitar player and a world-class beatboxer! Armed with only a guitar, unique set of vocals and an even more unique voice box capable of producing trumpet and drum sounds – the pair create a totally unique act. Expect the un-expected with these two!
Summer festival season is now in full swing and with the weather coming up trumps for festival goers this year - every back-packed, wellie-booted music lover that makes it out to the fields of Glastonbury, V-fest or Bestival is remembering why festivals in the UK are actually bloomin’ brilliant. With this in mind, Heather Welsh recalls her first ever festival experience and shares her tips for the dos and don’ts she’s learnt along the way.
Leeds Festival was pretty much a rite of passage for every teenager in my town – and it was with the excitement of an intrepid explorer that I left my parent’s house packed up with a tent and a big smile on my face the first weekend I made it to the fest.
Once inside the gates, the race to find the biggest, flattest and best pitch began. And for the army of tents my friends and I had to pitch up, this was a top priority. Those in the know usually bring an extra marquee to give a group of pals extra socialising space, pump up an inflatable mattress and even pack away some ear-plugs to ensure a more comfortable night’s sleep. A word of warning - do not pitch up near the dance tent – however tired you get and however good your ear-plugs are, the all night festival raves will keep you from falling into a slumber and leave you angry and tired the next day. And take it from me, DJs don’t do lullabies.
FYI, here’s another; do not pitch up by the toilets. Close access for those midnight loo stops may seem like a good idea, but those portaloos sure do stink up a perfectly fresh field quickly. Steer clear. And whilst we’re talking about hygiene, do bring with you dry shampoo and face wipes – they’re a good way to keep fresh if you want to avoid the communal showers!
The second priority at my first festival was to fill up on grub and cheap beers, gotta fuel the fun after all. So do bring your own alcohol (if you are of a legal age!!) as festival prices are not purse friendly! And also bring bottles of water because, without wanting to sound like your mum, keeping hydrated in the sun and when drinking alcohol is important if you want to avoid nasty headaches! Do bring snacks with you - fruit, nuts and cereal bars will help keep your energy up and start your day the right way – again, festival food isn’t usually the cheapest and can be notoriously greasy!
And finally, do look at the schedule for the different stages, comedy performances, film screenings and the like before you go. Make a note of who you’d like to see, even print out a schedule, as festivals often sell programmes for a hefty price, and it would be a shame if you miss out on a knock out set by the next big thing! And you never know, the next festival you go to it could be you up there!
One of the UK’s greatest creative artists is the original creator of one of our new productions happening at Riverside Studios this summer!
Variété was originally written, directed and performed by Lindsay Kemp, and is being re-imagined with the help of director Kinny Gardener and Chilean composer Carlos Miranda.
Let’s have a look at some of the things you should probably know about him!
1. He inspired Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie was a student of Kemp whilst he operated a dance and mime company that he opened in the 70s, and a lot of Bowie’s image choices were inspired directly by Kemp. Lindsay also starred in Bowie’s music video for his single “John, I’m only Dancing”. So in turn, the countless musicians and artists influenced by Bowie have also been influenced by Kemp too!
2. He’s a true Northerner
Kemp was born “up north” in the coastal town of South Shields which isn’t far from Newcastle upon Tyne. His mum seemed to think he didn’t quite fit in with other lads his age… "I'd dance on the kitchen table to entertain the neighbours. I mean, it was a novelty in South Shields to see a little boy in full make-up dancing on pointe. Finally it got a bit too much for my mother, and she decided to send me to boarding school at the age of eight, hoping that it would knock some sense into me."
3. He taught Kate Bush too!
Wuthering Heights singer Kate Bush was also one of Kemp’s students, and in return he supported her in a short film she directed and starred in. The Line, the Cross and the Curve is based on the tale played out in Bush’s music video for the song The Red Shoes. The story follows a dancer, possessed by her art, who can’t get rid of the red shoes and find harmony.
4. He starred in the old version of spooky thriller The Wicker Man
The original horror film made in 1973 stars Kemp as Alder MacGregor, a creepy pub landlord. The plot follows a police sergeant who is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl, the twist is the townsfolk claim she never existed…
5. He was told he wasn’t meant to be a dancer
Kemp was informed whilst he was training, by a very important dance teacher at a very important school in London, that he was “temperamentally and physically unsuited to be a dancer". Guess she was wrong.... There’s hope for the most un-coordinated of us out there then!
Written by Heather Welsh. Photo Credit: Michael Farley
With the launch of the new music theatre season at Riverside Studios fast approaching, we thought it’d be a good time to have a little chat with the director behind our amazing new production, Variété.
The show, set in 1936, follows a wandering naïf who joins a sideshow circus, the eccentric cast of which are rarely what they seem. Heather Welsh talks to the performer, director and teacher Kinny Gardner about his inspiration and what you can do to get into music theatre.
How did you feel taking on the role of director for this production, for the first time since its original creator Lindsey Kemp?
Suitably nervous, but still inspired by his original vision. As he himself has said “I have always had the compulsion to make my dreams realities...”.
Why should people come and see the production?
Variété is such a rarity: a darkly seductive yet lyrical musical work, surreal and expressionistic yet moving and very funny. Rarely does one get such a plethora of delights in one theatre piece.
Where did you take your inspiration from?
In this all-new staging, designed by Chris de Wilde - my favourite visualist - I took a lot of inspiration from spending time with and talking in depth to the composer of the piece, Carlos Miranda. As old collaborators, touring together to the opera houses of the world with Lindsay Kemp’s company, we have been able to re-visit many of Kemp’s original.
What’s your favourite thing about performing?
The connection with the public.
And your favourite production(s)?
Lindsay Kemp's Flowers remains a soul-stirring masterpiece: a work which influenced so many others, creative artists and adoring public alike. I have also many fond memories of performing in the earlier production of The Rocky Horror Show on Kings Road, London for quite a few years. If only I'd had an opportunity to be in Jerry Springer, The Opera, I loved it and the composer is my hero...
You’re obviously a very busy man! How do you juggle your various commitments?
Freelance theatre artists learn to juggle at an early age! I also spin plates... It's easier to plan in advance now due to computer connections and assorted apps, the diary has been replaced by the phone, but one still has to keep a firm eye on availability and allow for some sort of breaks. Even if that's a break with a meeting in the middle. I'm currently on a train to Manchester to finalise designs for Edmund the Learned Pig at the Royal Exchange Theatre, running in October 2013, and will grab an early supper with friends. Multitasking, eh?
Multitasking to the max! And finally, have you got any tips for any budding actors/singers/directors out there?
Go for it. Starve in a garret, pick pennies out of the Trevi Fountain, sing on street corners, live for your art....DO IT.
Variété comes to the Riverside Studios, this summer from 29 August - 1 September 2013