Meet the Cast of Rent: Paul Weems

After a sell-out first night, you can forget about tonight as that is already sold-out too. That means your only chance now is Saturday! The box office is only open until midday tomorrow. Tickets may be available on the door at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, but don't take the risk of losing out - Curtain up 7:45.

Now, in the last of our series we introduce a big character on stage, and off...

"He’s a drug dealer"

Paul ,  ready to make an impression in rehearsal,  with Martin Woodhams & Daniel Owen  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Paul, ready to make an impression in rehearsal,  with Martin Woodhams & Daniel Owen (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Name: Paul Weems

Character Name: 'The Man'

Tell us about your character: He’s a drug dealer. He supplies the drugs to Mimi which nearly end up killing her. 

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character?! Um…..no

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? 'Christmas Bells' ... because I’m in it.

What other shows have you done? Most recently I played Benedick in Much ado about nothing. Numerous shows previously, amongst them I was Vince Fontaine in Simply Theatre's Grease last year.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? There have been many but staring at a glass for 5 minutes while no one came on was pretty memorable.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I was 19 years old and the musical Cats came to town. I couldn’t wait to see it. They asked me if I wanted to go backstage and meet the cast. I was thrilled.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Well….the annual trip to Bedbar of course.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Hats.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Elly Fenton

RENT opens tonight!

The box office is open until midday but after that tickets will be available on the door. Friday is all but sold out, but you can still book for Saturday at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - Curtain up 7:45.

"Her favourite activates are winding up the police and pick-pocketing"

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Name: Elly Fenton

Character Name(s)/Roles: Homeless and Various Ensemble Characters

Elly in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Elly in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your character(s): My character is predominantly a Homeless Girl. She is new to the streets and finding it hard to get any money or help from others. It’s safe to say that life isn’t going how she had planned. She’s the ‘baby’ of the homeless ‘family’ but she’s tougher than she appears. Her favourite activates are winding up the police and pick-pocketing.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character(s)?! I can’t say I’ve ever slept on the streets, but I consider her to be approximately my age and I can connect to her ability to be cheeky and find the silver-lining to life.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? My favourite song has to be 'La Vie Boheme' because I have so much fun performing it. It’s the moment in the show where the characters manage to ignore the struggles in their life and focus on their own laughter and having a great time. I also hope that this musical number will be exciting and refreshing for our audience. My other favourites are ‘Take me or Leave me’, ‘Light my Candle’ and ‘Santa Fe’.

What other shows have you done? This is my second show with Simply Theatre and I’m sure it won’t be my last! Last year I played Frenchie in ‘Grease’ with Simply Theatre, but I have also played roles such as Eponine (Les Miserables), Marty (Grease) and Tracy Turnblad (Hairspray).

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? The most memorable stage moment for me is that feeling I get just before I go on stage for the curtain call. There’s a rush of adrenaline and I can’t wipe the smile from my face.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I was 4 years old. It was the summer before I started Reception and my soon-to-be primary school hall had a classical proscenium arch stage at the very end. Legend has it that I told my mum what I was most looking forward to about going to school was “performing on the big stage!”

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Simply Theatre has given me a lot. I’ve met some of my closest friends through being involved with their shows and I have been able to grow and develop as a performer. The thing I enjoy most is being part of what’s like a second-family as we all go through the process of creating theatre together.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Other than singing, acting and dancing I take Geography A Level – and it sucks.

No Day But Today

Elly in rehearsal with  Matt Hough  &  Alex Kirkham   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Elly in rehearsal with Matt Hough & Alex Kirkham (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Meet the Cast of Rent: San Rao

Rent opens tomorrow at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - Curtain up 7:45. You've not yet left it too late for Thursday of Saturday, but FRIDAY CLOSE TO A SELL OUT! Go to our box office to book seats whilst you still can .

"I remember looking at the audience and thinking 'imagining them naked doesn’t work'"

Name: San Rao

Character Name(s)/Role: Steve, Tango Maureen dancer, Seasons of Love soloist, part of the Police and Contact dancer.

San in rehearsal with Craig Marshall & Sarah Wilson  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

San in rehearsal with Craig Marshall & Sarah Wilson (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your characters: There isn’t much to say about Steve, but he is a member of the life support group trying to help the others morally as he’s going through the same problems as the rest of the members in the group.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your characters? Fortunately I don’t face any of the problems that my character faces so there isn’t much that helps me connect to the character.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? My favourite song would have to be ‘La Vie Boheme’ because its just such an active song with a lot going on which I think will excite the audience. The audience gets put through a mixed emotional journey whilst watching the show so I feel its important to have songs like ‘La Vie Boheme’ to cheer them up!

What other shows have you done? 'Lord of the Flies' as Jack, 'Cabaret' as Cliff, 'Pornography' as Bomber, 'Spring Awakening' as Hanschen and 'Earthquakes in London' as Tom.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? When I came out on stage for the first time playing Jack in Lord of the Flies I remember looking at the audience and thinking “imagining them naked doesn’t work”.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? After getting the first ever compliment about my acting in school.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The experience of being part of a family who all want the same thrill while performing.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Chicken.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Frankie McKean

Rent opening night is just 2 days away, but there is still time to book here for Thursday, Friday or Saturday at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking.

"... bringing love, sex and a lot of angry arguments to the stage!"

Name: Frankie McKean

Character Name: Maureen Johnson

Frankie in rehearsal annoying  Maria Langford   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Frankie in rehearsal annoying Maria Langford (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your character: She’s a typical flamboyant “artist”; a bit of a diva, bratty, and self-obsessed - she’s used to getting everything she wants and having everyone pretty much fall at her feet. Maureen is responsible for the dramatic protest against Benny amidst the bubbling social unrest of the story. She also creates enough drama in her social life due to her care free, often unfaithful, approach to relationships. An ex-girlfriend to Mark, who she still has wrapped around her little finger, Maureen is bisexual and currently in a passionate relationship with Joanne. Throughout the show we see their fiery partnership unfurl, bringing love, sex and a lot of angry arguments to the stage! 

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? There are many traits of Maureen’s character that I hope I don’t share (my friends and family may disagree here) but we are both performers, which we have in common. I am also known to be a bit mad, crazy and OTT at times, so I guess we are similar in our “larger than life” characters. I also think beneath her sexual front and playing of people, deep down she is very loving and truly cares for Joanne and her friends. We really see this in the show during Act 2 and Angel’s descent. I hope we have this in common, as I love my friends and family lots!!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? This to me is so difficult because Rent is genuinely one of my favourite shows - which is a huge deal for an musical theatre geek like myself! However, I think I’d have to say the whole “Halloween/Goodbye Love” section is my fave - it is so beautifully and intelligently written that the emotion is so easy to convey. It’s all just there in the music and lyrics. I think the emotions are so honest, that the couples all go from being so frustrated and angry, to seeing what is actually happening in their circle of friends, and the realisation that other things are more important.

What other shows have you done? I love performing and have done my whole life, but most recently I was lucky enough to perform in The National Youth Music Theatre’s new commission ‘Prodigy’, at the St. James in London. It was an absolutely insane experience and I met some incredible and inspiring people. I also recently did the local Camberley panto, where I got to play a Seal… *career highlight*.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? I think that with every show comes a particular moment that you really relish and look forward to. A couple of years ago, at college, a group of us performed “Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens”, which is similar to Rent in its themes and is also made up of true stories. I still remember the opening number of that, all of us just standing belting out harmonies that we’d made up, at the end of a long rehearsal process - it was a ‘goose-bump/arm-chills’ moment.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? As cringe as it is to mention it, when I was 11/12 I was honoured enough to perform at the Palladium in the Sound of Music. It was my first proper experience of a big audience and theatre, and I just remember thinking that there was no other feeling like it… From then on I haven’t looked back and, to this day, I still want to do it for the rest of my life - crazy!

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? I know it’s easy to say this but it has, genuinely, been the people. Many of them were strangers at the beginning, having not done Simply before, but I feel part of it now thanks to the cast and Alison and Emma being amazing leaders… and I am NOT looking forward to it being over! Simply also allows me to stay besties with my best girl from college, Grace Mouat (playing Mimi- amazingly!) which makes it all the more worth it, as I adore her lotssss!!

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Is it sad to say not really, no?...I joke - I currently am on my gap year working full time in events, specifically in Weddings, which is extremely fulfilling and allows me to remain in the real world for a while longer! I also love being with friends and family, and cooking FOOD (which doesn’t help the leather cat-suit side of my costume…). However, musical theatre is what I want to do with my life, and is my main passion, so it does take over a huge part, which will become bigger as I go on to full-time training this month - yay!

No Day But Today

Frankie in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Frankie in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Meet the Cast of Rent: Megan Swaisland

Rent stages this week from Thurs until Sat at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office whilst seats are still available!

"Apart from the amazing choices of shows, Simply is such a loving company"

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Megan in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Megan in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Name: Megan Swaisland

Character Name(s)/Roles: Junkie and part-time stripper.

Tell us about your character(s) My characters are very interesting to play... both desperate for completely different reasons. My junkie character purely desperate for her next fix whereas my nightclub dancer is desperate to earn money to live. Buried deep beneath the desperation though is a heart of gold and just a young girl looking to find someone to take care of her. Someone who will never abandon her and be the angel in her life.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character(s)?! I can't say I'm even remotely similar to my junkie character... However I can understand her desperation and determination to get something in her life. I'm on a gap year at the moment and auditioning for drama school, and although I won't be stripping in order to to get in, I would do just about anything for it. The only time I'm similar to my nightclub dancer is when I'm strutting (unconvincingly) around the dance floor in pop world. Though perhaps wearing a little more.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? I absolutely LOVE 'Take Me or Leave Me'! It is so sassy and I just love watching Frankie and Maria diva it out on the stage. It also reflects my outlook on life - take me or leave me, I am the way I am. You can't go through life trying to change yourself for other people, no matter how much they mean to you, especially if that compromises the real you.

What other shows have you done? Oooo, lots! I was in 'Grease' last year with Simply Theatre - I played Jan... The one that eats full-time. It was fabulous because I got to eat twinkies for the whole show and be completely goofy. Pretty much me in general... I've also been in shows such as 'Parade', 'Whistle Down The Wind' and 'Cinderella'.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? I will never forget the moment when I was performing in my final GSA foundation showcase and I realised how lucky I was to be able to perform like this and with all these amazing people. It was a bit embarrassing because I was absolutely weeping. It's funny how companies can become so close so quickly. We're so fortunate in that we almost have a second family. I wouldn't change it for the world.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I will always remember the day I was sat watching 'Annie' on a rainy day in France, and I fell head over heels in love with Ann Reinking. Her dance in the yellow dress for 'We've got Annie' absolutely captivated me, and from then on I was hooked. I wanted to be like the lady in the floaty yellow dress.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Apart from the amazing choices of shows, Simply is such a loving company. Everyone is so so friendly and welcoming and we all clump together as a family. It's an honour to perform with not only immensely talented people, but also dear friends as well.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? I'm afraid I'm pretty much a full time creative! If I'm not musical theatre-ing, I'm making a scrapbook or planning an amazing birthday present full of sparkles and pink things... I just like making stuff. Other than that, sleeping is high on the agenda.

No Day But Today

Meet the Crew of Rent: Gary Oliver

Rent runs from Thursday until Saturday this week at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office to book seats before they all go!

When it all goes smoothly you're not even aware of the work that goes into the lighting... As the team build the set today the work for the technical team starts in earnest.

"The mantra of ‘Anti Faff’, and my ability to make it up as I go along"

Name: Gary Oliver

Your Role: Tech Guy (Lighting and Projection)

The Batman and Robin of lighting: John Tonks & Gary Oliver (waiting for something to fall from the gantry) 

The Batman and Robin of lighting: John Tonks & Gary Oliver (waiting for something to fall from the gantry) 

And for the uninitiated that involves? Serious Answer - Creating the lighting design and plot for the show.  Working with our amazing tech team to make sure we have all the projection material ready.  Then 4 days of get in and plotting. Realistic Answer – Spend the 4 days before the show shouting orders at our poor tech team and pretending to the director that everything is under control when it clearly isn’t(!) as we haven’t planned anything.  Then spending two 12 hour days doing the most boring job in the world, trying to make the lighting desk do what I want it to do having forgot how to use it in the 11 months since the last show!

What from the rest of life helps you in your role? The mantra of ‘Anti Faff’, and my ability to make it up as I go along.

What’s your part of this show are you most looking forward to? Watching it all come together on the first night, and then the after show party!

What other shows have you done? All of the simply shows since the group was formed.

Can you recall a particularly memorable stage event that you contributed to? Return to the forbidden planet really does stand out in my memory.  Having never dealt with moving lights, projection or such a big lighting rig before it was a miracle it all worked!  Having spent the time between the dress rehearsal and the first night re-plotting half the show we hadn’t even run through the show from a technical point of view before the first audience arrived. 
What made it worse was 15 minutes before curtain up half the lighting on the band blew.  The director appeared back stage to the lighting crew up a ladder.  She took one look and headed for the bar.  Luckily it all ended in a standing ovation and ‘the worlds longest encore’...

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to get involved in theatre”? It was at secondary school in year 8 when I realised that acting just wasn’t for me and I could have more fun hidden from view in the lighting deck.  Thankfully having the best drama teacher in the world Mr Samson helped, this was the days before health and safety where he had us hanging off the worlds most unsafe scaffolding tower at 2am getting ready for the school shows.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The way both the cast and crew all interact so well, and have a great laugh every time we get together.

What else to you get up to when you’re not working in theatre? I am company director of an IT company, and am turning a real 747-400 cockpit into a simulator. (www.simfest.co.uk)

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Matt Hough

With his mother & sister as director & choreographer, he clearly doesn't mind being told what to do!

"... a troubled relationship and drug issue"

Name: Matt Hough

Character Name: Roger Davis

Matt in an early rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Matt in an early rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your character: He is a guitarist, recovering from a troubled relationship and drug issue which has effected his social behaviour. 

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? Certain things, girls are hard to handle ;)

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? Ooh difficult I think it has to be 'I'll cover you reprise', too cool and I must add credit to Alex absolutely smashes every time I hear it...

Matt as Roger with  Grace Mouat  as Mimi in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Matt as Roger with Grace Mouat as Mimi in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

What other shows have you done? Valjean in 'Les Miserables' , Joe Vegas in 'Fame' and LeFou in 'Beauty and the Beast', Tin Man in 'The Wiz', Ernst in 'Spring Awakening', also appeared in a GSA main show 'Bye Bye Birdie' 

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? Played PFC Louden Downey in 'A Few Good Men' at Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago, So much fun; massive learning curve.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? Watching Jersey Boys. I loved how slick that show was... And I thought I could hit those high notes ... well I can't ;)

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The people. All those friends I've made, and had all my life, through this group. They're my family, much extended family ;)

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? I play cricket and a bit of rugby. And enjoys job at Nandos. Mainly for the food.

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - book here before the tickets are gone!

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Laura Brand

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

"A sea of troubled, violent, aggressive and sexually repressed ensemble characters"

Name: Laura Brand

Character Name/Role: Mrs Marquez / Ensemble

Laura in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Laura in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Tell us about your characters: A sea of troubled, violent, aggressive and sexually repressed ensemble characters, displaying varying degrees of trouble, violence, aggression and sexual repression.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your characters? Reading the previous question, thankfully not! I am enjoying the freedom of taking part in a show that is about as far removed from my real life as possible!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? So many to choose from, but for me it has to be 'I’ll Cover You' – it’s a snapshot into the beautiful relationship between Angel and Collins, and a snapshot of what it means to be in love.

What other shows have you done? Some of my favourite roles from previous shows include Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, The Witch in Into the Woods, Florence in Chess and Miranda in Return to the Forbidden Planet. I've also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and twice at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall - Parade in 2013 and Spamalot in 2014.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? Best moment – Shocking the audience every night with a kick-ass drum solo live onstage in Return to the Forbidden Planet.
Worst moment – When my skirt fell off onstage during Quasimodo, and I couldn’t leave the stage for at least 10 minutes, resulting in spending two entire musical numbers with my hands clamped to my hips to stop my skirt from falling down. Luckily I got away with anyone noticing!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I was about 6 years old, performing in my first nativity play at primary school. I remember getting the adrenaline rush of being onstage for the first time - I've been addicted to that rush ever since.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Being with a group of people who let me run off my creative steam at the end of a day!

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? A full-time job, and a 6-year degree in Social Policy and Criminology with the Open University (currently just about to undertake my 3rd year).

Rent runs from next Thursday until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking. Ticket are going fast - book here now!

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Jamie McNicholas

Rent opens a week today and runs until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - You can book here.whilst you still have a choice of night!

"I got the chance to perform with the original Fagin ... Ron Moody."

Name: Jamie McNicholas

Character Name: Angel Dummot Schunard

Jamie in rehearsal with  Sabrina Hinchliffe ,  Alex Kirkham  and  Freddie Cox   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Jamie in rehearsal with Sabrina Hinchliffe, Alex Kirkham and Freddie Cox (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your character: Angel is a young drag queen and street percussionist. He meets and falls in love with Collins. He has HIV/ AIDS. As a person, Angel is the most generous and selfless character in the show. Angel hands out money to the neighbourhood while dressed in Santa drag. Though he has HIV/AIDS, he embraces life and lives it to its fullest. People are naturally drawn to him and his smile lights up the room. Tom and Angel’s relationship is the heart of the show, as the genuine love and devotion they have for one another brings hope and inspiration to the entire group. They show the world how to truly live life and not be afraid.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? I do not think I have many connections to Angel in my own life, which for me is a positive as I really get to explore a different side to myself and my performance skills in a way that I had never considered previously, and also to play with a character completely different to myself - I’m really enjoying taking on this different outlook that Angel has and developing my skills as a Male to walk in heels. Angel is very selfless and carries a natural warmth within her personality – I feel many of her personality traits are ones that I would ideally like people to recognise in me, and this is something I take with me when playing her in rehearsals.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? My favourite song in the show is the “Ill cover you – reprise”, I choose this song because I feel that it is the key song in the show that will punch you right in the emotions. The song perfectly shows the struggles that come with losing a loved one and the ballad style reprise of a once upbeat song about a young couple in love is really something to behold.

What other shows have you done? I have done a few shows prior to Rent, my most enjoyable experiences include: 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' - Uk tour; 'Cinderella' Pantomime – New Victoria Theatre Woking; 'Oliver! the Musical' – Theatre Royal Drury Lane; 'Spring Awakening' – Godalming College; 'Cabaret' – Godalming College; 'Let The Right One In' – Godalming College.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? The most memorable on stage moment for me has to be when I luckily got the chance to be a member of Fagin's Gang on the 50th Anniversary of Oliver! I got the chance to perform with the original Fagin, who recently passed, Ron Moody. I’ve never seen someone control an audience the way he did, and get so much pleasure from being on stage even at the age of 86. It was the most inspiring performance I have ever seen on stage and I don’t think I will have many experiences that will top that one.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I spent my early years as a child wanting to grow up to be a professional rugby player… hard to believe now as you may recognise me on stage as the one on stage in a dress and heels. But it wasn’t until the age of around 11/12 I would see shows up in London and be very jealous of any kids I saw on stage, a poignant moment for me was when watching Billy Elliot.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? This is the first production that I have ever done with Simply, and everyone has been so welcoming and made me feel comfortable from the second I met them. Simply has a great social side to our rehearsals, but we have also been very productive and efficient with the time we’ve spent on the show. Its very reassuring to have this much faith in a show and the company you’re working with.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? If you mean anything of importance… then no… Sometimes I watch Netflix and eat.

No Day But Today

Simply Theatre on the Radio

Rent: Some of the cast, including  Alex  (2nd right back row) and  Freddie  (top) (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Rent: Some of the cast, including Alex (2nd right back row) and Freddie (top) (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

A live broadcast interview

Last night Simply Theatre were featured on The Dan Curtis Drivetime Show on Brooklands Radio. It you missed it you can listen again here.

Sarah Jones, Freddie Cox & Alex Kirkham from our cast chatted for 12 minutes about Simply Theatre, our production of Rent, the characters, and some of the research involved in getting into character.

... But they were careful to not give away any spoilers!

Rent is just a week away now, opening at Woking's Rhoda McGaw Theatre on Thursday 17th September and running until Saturday 19th. Curtain up is at 7:45.

Buy tickets and select your seat now.

No Day But Today

Meet the Director of Rent: Alison Lawrence

The show opens next week, Thurs 17th to Sat 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre - book seats at our box office now!

"Having made my adult début on stage as front end of Drusilla the camel, I've never looked back!"

Name: Alison Lawrence

Your Role: Director

alison

alison

And for the uninitiated that involves? Well basically - everything on-stage! From choosing the production, casting, creating a vision, rehearsals, ideas for costumes, set, special effects, sound ... motivating the cast - almost anything to get the best show on the stage and a few other things besides!

What from the rest of life helps you in your role? Being organised and an attention to detail ! I have been a project manager for years and developed a spreadsheet to manage everything that can be managed that way! Alongside that being a bit crazy and aiming high!

What’s your part of this show are you most looking forward to? Show week and seeing my vision for real - and the audiences reaction!

What other shows have you done? Basically all of them in one capacity or another - mainly directing! Once in, and once stage Manager, elsewhere performing in anything from Shakespeare to Panto.

Can you recall a particularly memorable stage event that you contributed to? Now that's really hard .. If I tell one story most often, its probably being on-stage as a member of stage crew in a production of the Wiz,  so I could pass the objects to the Wizard to give out to Dorothy and her friends. It was my first time in the Rhoda, with another group, and all of a sudden all I could smell was burning - frantically looking around to find the source and without being able to attract the Stage Manager's attention. I couldn't see anything and finally thought I was going to have to reveal myself and stop the show. Just then lion got up and as a result moved his tail, which was now melted and heavily smoking as it had been hanging over the hot smoke machine - could have been very nasty! That and our most recent first trip to the Edinburgh Fringe - which was a blast!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to get involved in theatre”? I kind of fell into theatre aged about 25 - I had admired from afar at school, but was a musician so was always in the band. Having made my adult début on stage as front end of Drusilla the camel, I've never looked back!

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Meeting all the new and talented people and tackling something a bit more gritty! (hopefully successfully).

What else to you get up to when you’re not working in theatre? I work in IT as a programme manager - 4 days a week and the 5th day is generally for a show of some sort!

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Helen Bracher

Rent show next week from Thurs 17th until Sat 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office whilst seats are still available!

"We all pull together to makes every show outstanding"

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Name: Helen Bracher

Character Name(s)/Roles: Mrs Jefferson, Life Support group member and Vendor

Helen in Simply Theatre's 'Return to Forbidden Planet  '

Helen in Simply Theatre's 'Return to Forbidden Planet'

Tell us about your character(s) Mrs Jefferson is Joanne’s mum. She and her husband are extremely well off. Member of the Life Support group for people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS and on the street as a vendor of cigarettes.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character(s)?!
Being a Mum!!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? For me singing, I love 'Christmas Bells' as it is brilliant to listen to all the different parts. My favourite of the show are both 'I’ll Cover You' and the reprise. They are sung with such passion.

What other shows have you done? 'Hot Mikado', 'Return to the Forbidden Planet', 'Streetcar Named Desire', 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Into the Woods'.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? Oh so many to choose from! It would have to be between two: In 'Forbidden Planet' when the airlock got stuck and Prospero had to squeeze through a tiny gap with Ariel whilst singing. The second is when I played Tina Sugar, the tea lady. The interaction I had with Captain Tempest when serving him his tea nearly got him corpsing!!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? It has to be in junior school when I was chosen, over the Headmasters grand daughter, to be the Arch Angel Gabriel … I can still remember my lines as the boy playing Joseph was my crush at the time. I was 8.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? I love being part of a huge family and having so much fun. We all pull together to makes every show outstanding. There are no diva moments at all (oh except if Nicole doesn’t get her chair in dressing room 1 - only kidding).

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Just to blow my own trumpet I have just qualified as a maths teacher so I think that will be taking up a lot of my time.
Spending time with Tim, aka 'Shaky T', your fab Stage Manager.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Dorcia Bowden-Noble

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - tickets are going fast now so go to our box office to book your seats

"I've been able to use my repressed wrath and unleash it on stage!"

Name: Dorcia Bowden-Noble (Poshest name in the world...also my middle name is Grace, soooo).

Character Name/Role: Blanket Woman. (Aka Lady Blanket Women Esq 3rd).

Dorcia in rehearsal with the other homeless characters including Craig Marshall, & Brett Walker   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Dorcia in rehearsal with the other homeless characters including Craig Marshall, & Brett Walker  (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

Tell us about your characters: She is brilliantly feisty! She's part of the homeless ensemble and may be down, but definitely not out.  I like to imagine that she was once a lady of riches with an antique wardrobe full of fur coats, but somehow fell onto hard times. This doesn't seem to be enough to keep her down though, as she has no qualms with standing up to the authorities or any heartless busybodies.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your characters? Definitely years of overly British politeness has meant I've never been gutsy enough to shout and swear at people that tick me off. I guess it's helped though as I've been able to use my repressed wrath and unleash it on stage!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? 'Tango Maureen'! Everything about the song appeals to me.  The music is just so brilliant, the lyrics have some fabulous comedy moments and the fact that it pauses for a dance interlude can only be a plus!

What other shows have you done? This is my first production with Simply Theatre,  my last musical being Best Little Whore House about 8 years ago! However I have performed in lots of plays since then, the most resent being 'Stepping Out', where I played Sylvia.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? I used to do a lot of dance competitions when I was younger. When I was about 10 I performed a national solo in front of a large audience and judges. About half way through I started to realised that most of the audience, including the judges, had started giggling. Seeing no evidence of my traditional Romanian dance being the least bit comical, and being the professional I was, I carried on my dance. By the end, the audience had given up and were failing to hide their full blown sniggering.  It wasn't until I left the stage that my dance teacher asked me why I went on with an extremely dirty pair of white tights dangling like a strange smelly tail from my bloomers. I quickly told her it was bloomer stuffing....(because all bloomers need stuffing...) and performed the walk of shame back to the changing room with them still dragging behind me. Definitely a memorable on stage moment. Oh and when my score card came back it read 'Please make sure your costume is appropriately applied'.  Still a story my mum loves to reminisce about.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I can't remember a particular moment, but I started dancing when I was 3 and got the stage bug straight away! My dad used to also take my brother and I to see musicals at the Mayflower and, even though I loved watching them, I always wanted to be on the stage with them more.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The cast! Everyone is just so friendly and welcoming and they are all so dauntingly talented! I'm 'over the moon' to have been lucky enough to perform with them. (See what I did there).

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Eating cake mainly. Apart from that my other passion is working with children. I absolutely love my job in my nursery and I still get to sing dance and act all day!

No Day But Today

Meet the Crew of Rent: Nicole Connell

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre - book seats at our box office.

This year she's behind the scenes.

"...Each show is better than the last..."

Name: Nicole Connell

Your Role: Co-Owner, Box Office & Props

Nicole, in a rare moment of contemplation  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography )

Nicole, in a rare moment of contemplation (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography)

And for the uninitiated that involves? I look after all of the financial stuff, to make sure we're not overspending. For this show I am also Box Office, so that means nagging cast to sell tickets and running the selling of tickets to the general public. Props will come into play the week of the show where I'll be in charge of making sure the cast take the correct props on at the right time!

What from the rest of life helps you in your role? I'm mega organised and enthusiastic - both qualities that are a MUST when you run an am dram group.

What’s your part of this show are you most looking forward to? I love show week - seeing it all come together and how the audience react to it. It's the first time for a long time I'm not in the show, so I'm sad about that but still love being part of it!

What other shows have you done? Hot Mikado, Return to the Forbidden Planet (THE best show ever), Little Shop of Horrors, A Streetcar Named Desire, Grease, Into the Woods, The Vicar of Dibley.....it's probably easier to ask what I haven't done!

Can you recall a particularly memorable stage event that you contributed to? There are many, however, they all entail me being drunk, hungover or ill on-stage, so I try to forget them.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to get involved in theatre”? Age 5, school play - I was hooked!! At the bows I was escorted from the stage as I kept going.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? How each show is better than the last, how we push boundaries and work "outside the box".

What else to you get up to when you’re not working in theatre? Not a lot else.....I am publicity officer for the Woking Drama Association and also run a Murder Mystery troupe with a group of am dram friends...theatre is pretty much my life!

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Sabrina Hinchliffe

"I’ve always wanted to be on the stage. It’s an amazing feeling"

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Name: Sabrina Hinchliffe

Character Name(s)/Role: I’m in the ensemble and play a couple of various roles.

In rehearsal , Sabrina (centre) with  Alex Kirkham ,  Jamie McNicholas ,  Elly Fenton  & Annie Imrie-Cook (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

In rehearsal, Sabrina (centre) with Alex Kirkham, Jamie McNicholas, Elly Fenton & Annie Imrie-Cook (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Tell us about your characters: I’m the Coat Vendor, who Angel believes brings her and Collins together. I’m also one of Maureen’s sassy back up singers.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your characters? Well, I’ve never sold a coat, but I have sold a few things on Ebay…

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? I love all of them! But if I had to pick, it would definitely be 'Take Me or Leave Me'. It’s full of attitude and performed amazingly by Maria and Frankie in the show.

What other shows have you done? I grew up in Hong Kong and haven’t done anything since I used to live there 8 years ago, so it’s been a while! In the past I’ve done a few plays, pantos and musicals, which include 'Fame' and' Footloose'. I also played Aslan in 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe'. The hair helped.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? When I was once in a production of The Witches, the other witches and I were frozen in position whilst some action happened downstage. About 10 seconds in, a gigantic piece of the set fell from the ceiling onto our heads! Wigs knocked off, cold soup everywhere... The show must go on!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I’ve always wanted to be on the stage. It’s an amazing feeling.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Getting back into performing and meeting some incredibly talented people. Everyone at Simply is so good at what they do and have been so welcoming. I get serious RENT withdrawals between rehearsals!

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Netball has always been a huge part of my life. Although I don’t get a chance to play as much as I used to, I now coach as well as play, which ultimately led me into my career as a teacher.

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office to book seats

No Day But Today

Meet the Crew of Rent: Tim Bracher

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office to book seats

It just can't happen without the skills of the unsung heroes... 

"The shows are “West End” quality and it’s great fun"

Name: Tim Bracher aka 'Shaky T'

Your Role:    Stage Manager / Set Builder

Tim -  we keep him out of sight of the audience

Tim -  we keep him out of sight of the audience

And for the uninitiated that involves? I take over the running of the play from 'get in'.

What from the rest of life helps you in your role? Being laid back and not getting stressed when things don’t quite go as planned.

What’s your part of this show are you most looking forward to? Creating a simple stage world for the production.

What other shows have you done? 'Grease', 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' (my fave), 'Streetcar Named Desire'.

Can you recall a particularly memorable stage event that you contributed to? The airlock doors in 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' getting stuck

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to get involved in theatre”? No, but I volunteered to be crew which ended up being an on-stage role!

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? It’s friendly, the shows are “West End” quality and it’s great fun.

What else to you get up to when you’re not working in theatre? I’m a Health product distributor, magician, motorcycle instructor, scuba instructor, engineer, software salesman, networker.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Maria Langford

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - go to our box office to book seats

"She's the 'grown up' of the group with good intentions ..."

Name: Maria Langford

Character Name: Joanne Jefferson

Maria in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Maria in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Tell us about your character: Joanne is a successful Harvard educated lawyer who has fallen for the spontaneous and sometimes obscene Maureen. She constantly fights with her natural 'straight-laced' background and her passionate feelings for Maureen. She's the 'grown-up' of the group with good intentions but that doesn't always work out for her! By the end of the show she finds some flexibility and figures out what's really important to her. 

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? I can definitely relate to Joanne's busy and mixed schedule and her desire to do everything at once!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? My favourite song is 'Santa Fe'. I love the hope that it evokes and its laid back feel and harmonies are a great musical contrast to some of the more rock-based musical numbers in the show.

What other shows have you done? Theatre: Into the Woods (Witch); Personals (Woman #3); The Shakespeare Revue (Director); Film: The Other Side of The Lake (Sinead Kearns - in production)

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? I'm 13 years old playing Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof; during the wedding scene my veil starts to slide of my head! Instead of letting it go I try to hang on to it and dance through with one hand on my head! Not quite the blushing bride!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I was 11. I went to see a school show production of Antigone at my older sister's school. I didn't have a clue what the story was, but I was hooked!

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Definitely the crazy, talented people! They make the whole process so enjoyable.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? My kids and my family. However, both my daughters are involved in this production! I'm also a Head of Performing Arts, so I guess the real answer is 'No'! My life is pretty full of all things performance!

Rent runs from Friday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - You can book here.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Khuda Bee

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - You can book here.

"When I watched Rent (which was the first ever musical I watched live) I knew I had to be in theatre"

Rent has a vast array of characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Name: Kudakwashe Bere

Character Name/Role: Pastor and Ensemble

Tell us about your characters: As The Pastor my role is pretty simple, as you might have guessed, I am in charge of the church. In the ensemble I have multiple roles. As one of the police who, for some reason, have something against the homeless - and I love it (obviously not the concept, but the action on stage). I am also a student when I am not the above two.

Khuda in rehearsal, with  Matt Hough ,  Frankie McKean  &  A    khil Gowrinath   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Khuda in rehearsal, with Matt Hough, Frankie McKean & Akhil Gowrinath (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your characters? As a student, I guess it is easy to portray the character.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? ‘Goodbye Love’ because it challenged me to think about who I am as, in life today, everyone know about what’s going on around them, especially social media, but the truth is that most people do not know or realise who they are as a person.

What other shows have you done? Beauty and the Beast as Gaston, In The Heights as Benny, Little Shop of Horrors as The Plant ‘Audrey ll’, Genesis as Solly.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? The moment I was revealed as the plant in Little Shop of Horrors and listening and looking at the audience’s reaction was priceless.

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? I was inspired by the way my uncle played his drums on stage and when he passed on and left me his drum kit, I knew one day I had to be on stage, and when I watched Rent (which was the first ever musical I watched live) I knew I had to be in theatre.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? I guess the cast and crew aren’t as scary as I thought. In fact they are all wonderful and full of jokes, so as this is the first time with them I feel welcomed and humbled to be part of it.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? I guess there is always room for a cheeky Nandos :)

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Akhil Gowrinath

"the opening night managed to crack my kneecap without realising"

Name: Akhil Gowrinath

Character Name: Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III

Tell us about your character: He used to live with Mark, Collins and Maureen in squalor as a Bohemian but has since sold out, marrying Alison “Muffy” Grey, heiress to the Grey fortune. As a result, he becomes landlord to Mark and Roger. I think deep down he is a decent guy who wants to be the same person he was before getting married, but gets caught up in his current lifestyle. He makes some questionable choices during the course of the show, which make him quite unlikeable on the face of it. 

Akhil   in rehearsal, with  Freddie Cox ,  Frankie McKean  &  Maria Langford   (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Akhil in rehearsal, with Freddie Cox, Frankie McKean & Maria Langford (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? Haha – well two things: As the show suggests Benny likes money and I’m also partial. Also, like Benny, I do like my car (although I don’t drive a Range Rover).

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? Out Tonight - I love the fact that it sounds like a wolf howling “Ouwoooot Tonight”!

What other shows have you done? Far too many to say all here but highlights include, Hairspray, The Last 5 Years, Footloose, Company, Sweeney Todd, Parade, A Christmas Carol, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? The one that comes to mind instantly (for the wrong reasons) is when I was playing Smee in Peter Pan, had to do a comic fall and on the opening night managed to crack my kneecap without realising! I carried on with the rest of the run and discovered it had cracked (and healed) 5 months later!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? Probably when I was in year 5. I had just been cast as a Wise Man in the nativity and had so much fun doing it.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The cast are really friendly – it’s a great vibe in rehearsals. Also, Alison is a great director, she really knows what she wants, which makes it so much easier for us as the performers.

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? By day, I’m a tax advisor at a global accountancy firm!

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - You can book here.

No Day But Today

Meet the Cast of Rent: Freddie Cox

"Mark is a budding film director desperately trying to finish his movie"

Freddie with attitude & altitude! - in rehearsal  (Photo courtesy of  Front of House Photography  )

Freddie with attitude & altitude! - in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of Front of House Photography )

Name: Freddie Cox

Character Name: Mark Cohen

Tell us about your character: The partial narrator of Rent, Mark is a budding film director desperately trying to finish his movie, whilst trying to be a friend to everybody.

Is there anything in your own life that helps you connect with your character? Awkwardness is one, as is my passion. In fairness I’d say Mark is by all means 1980’s a version of me!

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? 'La Vie Boheme'. It’s a great feel good number and you can’t help but party down and feel happy!

What other shows have you done? Too many! Recently with Simply Theatre I was Doody in Grease, but I have also done an adult panto (oh my!), Hairspray, Copacabana, Guys & Dolls, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat (the UK tour).

Can you recall a particularly memorable on-stage moment? My standing ovation at the end of Hairspray where I played Wilbur! This was despite me getting my mic stuck in Edna’s wig and ripping my trousers … very Wilbureque if you ask me!

Can you remember the first time you thought “I want to be in theatre”? Year 5. I don’t know why, but it kinda just happened.

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? Well I’m entering my eighth year with them in September, so they must be doing something right!

Is there room in your life for anything else apart from singing, dancing & acting? Ah! Nope! I do a drama degree, work at Legoland (which involves singing and dancing) and other Am-Dram. Nope, no room!

Rent runs from Thursday 17th September until Saturday 19th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - You can book here.

No Day But Today