10 questions for 10 years – Ming Ho

Playwright and scriptwriter Ming Ho takes on 10 questions and reveals the unlikeliest of Josephs you ever did  hear…!

I love a show that completely takes you by surprise and the aural adventure (plus snacks!) of Citizens of Nowhere? did just that, lingering long in the mind. So I thought I’d invite writer Ming Ho to speak a little about that show, and much more besides:

“Getting to work with the lovely cast, Jennifer Lim, Siu Hun Li (who inspired the character of Jun in the play!), and Pik-Sen Lim, a rare East Asian face on TV when I was growing up.” 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    In the wilderness. Having started out as a script editor in TV drama and moved into scriptwriting, I’d had a solid few years working on long-running series (Eastenders, Casualty etc), but my mum had been developing symptoms of dementia for probably over a decade, and her needs became pressing; as an only child with no other immediate family, I found myself spending more and more time supporting her, shuttling back and forth from our family home to my flat in London, and eventually having to arrange residential care for her and sell the house. She’s been in care for 8 years now in two different homes and is at a very advanced stage. In 2013, I started a blog about our experiences, Dementia Just Ain’t Sexy, and have since become heavily involved in campaigning re dementia and carer issues, sitting on the Carers Advisory Panel of Dementia Carers Count  and the Advisory Board of Raising Films.

    I never consciously withdrew from TV writing, but fell out of circulation on the long-runners, and that year of 2009 also had major surgery that I’d been putting off for some time, due to mum’s condition. I kept up contact with the business through involvement with the Writers’ Guild, sitting on the TV Committee and Executive Council, and being Deputy Chair from 2012-14. It was a traumatic time, but arguably, with hindsight, it has given me pause for thought about the kind of work I really want to do. I’ve realised that autonomy and truthfulness of content are the drivers for me and have since been focusing on original work for stage, screen, and radio.

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10 questions for 10 years – Tom Littler

Artistic Director of the Jermyn Street Theatre, Tom Littler tackles the 10 questions challenge with some real gusto

Tom Littler became AD and EP of the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2017 but his relationship with the theatre goes back way further. And when I asked him to about his memories of Anyone Can Whistle which I noted as my favourite of his productions, this was his response: 

“I’m slightly perturbed that you think I peaked in 2010…! That was a memorable time. I remember the three leads, Issy van Randwyck, David Ricardo-Pearce and Rosalie Craig, very clearly. David had a song called ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ – a hymn to anarchy and breaking the rules, but most of all to trying: ‘Tilt at the windmill, and if you fail, you fail.’ That often feels pretty relevant in art and life.” 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    I was opening a play at the Arcola called Origin of the Species by Bryony Lavery, with Clare-Hope Ashitey and Marjorie Yates. It’s about a prehistoric woman who comes to life. We buried Clare-Hope in sand and the audience had no idea she was there until Marjorie excavated her.

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Album Review: RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow

A musical theatre album with a difference, RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow is refreshingly bold

“I’ve been changed, yes really changed”

Nick Barstow is a multi-hyphenate of a different order – musical director, arranger, and composer, a behind-the-scenes triple threat if you will. And having made a success of his cabaret series RE:arrangement, he’s now released an album RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow which showcases his gift for reinventing musical theatre standards by the likes of Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Kander & Ebb, with the help of some guest stars including Faye from actual Steps.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the name of the album, some of these arrangements really are quite radical and really serve the purpose of making you look at these songs anew. So I can admire the decision to transpose the elegiac beauty of Ivor Novello’s ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ into full-on Jason Robert Brown territory (or is it more Jonathan Larson…?), delivered with real commitment by Noel Sullivan, whilst still craving the crystalline harmonies of Muriel Barron and Olive Gilbert.It’s just different is all. Continue reading “Album Review: RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow”

Review: Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre

Someone clearly has too much time on their hands…enjoy the wordplay in this review of this spectcular revival of Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre

“Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-I
Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-I”

Strallens to the fore,
umbrellas at the ready,
penguins…well we won’t mention them. Making its return to the Prince
Edward Theatre where it debuted in 2004, this
revival of
classic musical Mary Poppins
arrives at just the right time to
lift our spirits as the nights start to draw
in and politicians spout
falsehood after falsehood to further darken our nights. And there’s a
rollicking good time to be had here
as the show recalls the
good old days of easy-going entertainment.
In the
leading role, Zizi Strallen
is a constant delight as the
stern nanny with just the right amount of
twinkle in her eye as she alights upon the Banks’ household. Vocally, she
is impressive too, whether rebuffing
Charlie Stemp’s charmingly flirtatious Bert whose
enormous perma-grin may or may not be the result of
xanax
pills.
In the roles of the domestic staff, Claire Machin
and Jack North get many a
laugh and
if George Banks isn’t the  
dad of your dreams, Joseph Millson pretty much is.
Obviously
children play a big part
in this world and the pair
of tykes I saw this evening were
unusually
sweet and sour as their characters are much naughtier than the film. Continue reading “Review: Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – Duncan Clarke

Based in York and Edinburgh, arts PR Duncan Clarke has been responsible more than most for getting me out of London

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    Funnily enough 10 years I decided to take the decision and leave my job as the Communications Officer at York Theatre Royal and start up Duncan Clarke PR. Being based in Yorkshire, I knew that there was so many great theatre companies in the region and yet very few theatre publicists – so it just made sense to start up on my own. I must admit I was really nervous about making the move but what kept me going was the brilliant from people within the industry and the support from my amazing wife.

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Album Review: Lea Michele – Christmas in the City

Jonathan Groff and Darren Criss elevate Glee star Lea Michele’s first holiday album Christmas in the City

“In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas”

It’s definitely that time of year, as Christmas albums start to pop up left, right and centre and getting in there early is actress and singer Lea Michele with her debut holiday album Christmas in the City. It’s a very New York take on the festive season, tending towards the secular than the sacred, and the result is smoothly satisfying, especially in its strong choice of collaborators.

Michele sounds at her best when partnered by former Glee co-stars Darren Criss and Jonathan Groff. On their respective duets of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, there’s a beautiful lightness of touch to these interpretations of such familiar material. Trading lines and harmonies with all the elegance of Torvill and Dean, the musical beauty here is just lovely. Continue reading “Album Review: Lea Michele – Christmas in the City”

10 questions for 10 years – Abi Zakarian

I ask playwright Abi Zakarian to kick off round two of my 10 Questions for 10 Years feature

Abi Zakarian’s I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream kinda blew the roof off the VAULT Festival in 2018 and so she’s definitely a writer to watch out for, if indeed she’s not already on your radar – she has won a Fringe First too. But it is I Have A Mouth… that I will be putting on in my theatre when I win the lottery and I asked Abi to kindly share some thoughts about the play:

“Apart from the unbelievable amount of love and revolutionary fervour it seemed to inspire I actually really loved your review of it Ian – the bit at the end where you stated you’d changed your font for the review because of what you’d read in the Womanifesto made me choke up a little bit. So thank you.”

Album Review: Hayden Tee – Face to Face

A varied song selection means that Hayden Tee’s new album Face to Face should appeal to a wide range of musical theatre fans

“In a world of wondering, suddenly you know”

Fresh off a year in the sensible shoes of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, New Zealand actor and singer Hayden Tee celebrates the world of musical theatre – and his path within it – with the intriguing new album Face to Face. Arranged by Nigel Ubrihien and assisted by the lushness of by a symphony orchestra, this collection covers Kander & Ebb to Jason Robert Brown and much more inbetween.

At just 9 tracks long, I might have had a touch of initial disappointment that there’s some heavily familiar material here. Les Misérables is represented twice with ‘Stars’ and ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, and the ubiquitous ‘Till I Hear You Sing’ from Love Never Dies. All are sung most competently, the controlled power at the top of Tee’s range is certainly impressive but on an entirely selfish note, I’m just tired of hearing these songs. Continue reading “Album Review: Hayden Tee – Face to Face”

Album Review: Alice Fearn – Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going

I finally get round to listening to Alice Fearn’s 2016 album Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going and enjoy it, a lot

“A late night ‘Yes sir’
leads to good press sir”

I’m always pleased to see musical theatre performers trekking a little off the beaten path when it comes to putting together the tracklisting for their albums. As deeply held a connection as they may have to this standard or that, it can get a little wearing to hear the same material regurgitated time and again. So Alice Fearn instantly gets brownie points for her 2016 collection Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going.

Michel Legrand rubs shoulders with Andrew Lippa, there’s a deep dive into the Kander + Ebb archive, Sondheim is in there but he’s gender-flipped and there’s a track from Smash that reminds me I really need to get around to watching that show. And allowing her inspiration to draw far and wide just adds that extra level of interest, surprise even as in the case of the brassy delights of Frank Wildhorn & Jack Murphy’s ‘Big Time’ which was new to me and an instant fave. Continue reading “Album Review: Alice Fearn – Where I’ve Been…Where I’m Going”

Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Chiswick Playhouse

A genuinely updated I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a really rather lovely thing at the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse

“The groom tried to stroke me
While we danced the Hokey Pokey”

Expectation can be a funny thing. A revival of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was the choice to christen the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse (the Tabard as was) but as I caught a version with a luxury cast and terrible venue choice a few years ago, I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing the show again.

But Charlotte Westenra’s production emerges as a really rather lovely thing, benefitting from an updating that does a fantastic job of retooling the show for a contemporary audience. There may be those who roll their eyes but the incorporation of same sex storylines and stronger female voices, while still maintaining the integrity of the book, genuinely makes it all the more powerful. Continue reading “Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Chiswick Playhouse”