Meet the Cast of Sweeney Todd: Monisha Parhar

"This is my first show with 'Simply'..."

'Sweeney Todd' has an array of fascinating characters, so many of our cast get to play multiple roles.

Moni (Photo courtesy of  FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY )

Moni (Photo courtesy of FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Name:  Monisha Parhar

Role: Young Lucy / Washerwoman / Inmate

Tell us about your character: Young Lucy is the faithful and loving wife of Benjamin Barker and mother of Johanna Barker. However, Lucy can be naive and this at times can result in a bad outcome. 

Your favourite lyric your character has: “..freely flows the blood of those who moralize”, this line is suggesting whomever crosses Sweeney won’t get away with it. It’s so simple yet powerful.

Moni in rehearsal with Jon Bingham (Photo courtesy of  FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY )

Moni in rehearsal with Jon Bingham (Photo courtesy of FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

What’s your favourite song in the show? I have so many songs I love in Sweeney, but if I had to choose one it would be “By the Sea”. This song is so well done by both Darren Street (Sweeney Todd) and Sarah Jones (Mrs Lovett). I feel this song adds a sense of humour to the play and also shows just how in love and infatuated Mrs Lovett is with Sweeney. 

What other shows have you done? This is my first show with “Simply” and hopefully won’t be my last. I have also been in musicals such as Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (Sister) and Grease (Cha-Cha DiGregorio). I have also been in straight acting plays such as Stockholm (Kali) and That Face (Izzy).

Moni in rehearsal with Ellie Lunt, Matt Hough & Daniel Owen (Photo courtesy of  FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY )

Moni in rehearsal with Ellie Lunt, Matt Hough & Daniel Owen (Photo courtesy of FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Has anything ever happened to you, on-stage, that wasn’t in the script? Luckily for me I haven't had that much bad luck. I do however remember one time in College when I had my tech run for “Cellblock Tango” from the play “Chicago” during which we had to straddle a chair. Somehow when I got to this move I managed to get my dance shoe stuck on the chair leg and ended up dragged it around with me for the next 16 counts. It was very embarrassing! I actually don’t think I have ever told that story to anyone so count yourself lucky!!

What musical moment first made you think, “I want to do that!”? I remember my first time on stage performing was at school. I had done dancing from a very young age at wedding’s and such, but I had never really sung in front of a big audience before. I was in Year 4, we had a talent show and I decided to sing. All I remember was being on stage in the huge hall with all of the years from 1-6 watching me. I was so nervous but I looked over and all my friends were smiling and mouthing “you can do it”. After performing I just remember feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt and I loved the feeling of singing a story to an audience. Everyone was so supportive. (I also remember the boy I fancied at the time came up to me and said I was really good and asked me out, which for me at that age was a big deal!)

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The best thing about “Simply” is that they are all like a musical family to me. The moment I went to my first rehearsal everyone was so sweet and welcoming. I feel like I can be myself and not worry what people think, as we are all as crazy as one another. 

What else do you do besides singing, dancing & acting? I’m a very performing arts based kind of girl. However, before I decided I wanted to go down the performing arts route, I wanted to be a photographer. I still love photography and have my own blog about my travels. 

'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' runs from Thursday 15th September until Saturday 17th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - tickets are on sale now. You can book at our box office.

Meet the Cast of Sweeney Todd: Akhil Gowrinath

"...35 shows later and I’ve still got the bug!"

Akhil (Photo courtesy of  FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY )

Akhil (Photo courtesy of FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Your Name: Akhil Gowrinath

Character Name: Judge Turpin

Tell us about your character: “Most Honourable Judge Turpin”… or not! The Judge is a true villain – he arranges for the undeserving Sweeney to be arrested because he has a bit of thing for Lucy. I wish I could say that was the worst thing he does in the show but, alas, I can’t! He potentially has one redeemable moment in the show as he adopts Sweeney’s daughter Johanna, but ruins that by his lecherous advances towards her once she turns 16…creepy! 

Your favourite line your character has: “There is indeed a higher power to warn me thus in time” – this line was originally cut, but after I was cast I persuaded Alison (Director) to put it back in. I can’t tell you why it’s my favourite – I just like it.

Everyone knows something of the Sweeney Todd story (slitting throats and dubious pies), but what extra do you think we will get from the Simply version of this Sondheim telling? An ensemble of characters – Sweeney Todd’s ensemble typically is very hard to direct – they are effectively the story tellers of the show and it’s very easy to make them just that – but by adding in characters within that – the show creates an almost immersive atmosphere by drawing the audience into the story. Also, the choreography in the show sets it apart from others.

Akhil as Judge Turpin in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of  FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY )

Akhil as Judge Turpin in rehearsal (Photo courtesy of FRONT OF HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY)

What’s your favourite song in the show and why? 'Johanna' (Act 2) – I love this song – a really beautifully written quartet. I also love that Sweeney sings this lovely song as he kills people, which adds to the dark comedic essence of the entire show.

What other shows have you done? This is my 2nd show with Simply, having played Benny in RENT last year. Far too many to list them all, but other roles include Eddie (Made in Dagenham), Jamie (The Last 5 Years), Seaweed (Hairspray), Jim Conley (Parade), Willard (Footloose) and Harry (Company).

Has anything ever happened to you, on-stage, that wasn’t in the script? Several matinee pranks! One that comes to mind was in 'Our House' when I played Emmo. The premise was that I indicated that I was going to take my top off and then get shot down by two of the other characters. During the matinee, they decided to not shoot me down and actually get me to take my top off… I was so taken aback that I completely broke character, almost did take my top off then remembered I had a mic belt on so couldn’t and just mumbled “erm…no”. 

What musical moment first made you think, “I want to do that!”? I’d always loved acting but never knew I could sing. My last opportunity to perform at school was a musical, (you may have heard of it) Les Miserables (it’s funny cos I hadn’t heard of it at all!). So I thought I may as well audition and managed to get some decent singing parts in the show. Doing the show gave me such a buzz, that I had to continue doing musicals! 35 shows later and I’ve still got the bug!

What are you enjoying most about being part of Simply Theatre? The social aspect of Simply is one of the best I’ve encountered in the am-dram world! Also, it’s always nice to perform with such a talented group of people. Additionally, this year there hasn’t been a huge crossover with the people who were in 'RENT' last year and so it’s meant meeting a whole bunch of new people, which I always like!

What else do you do besides singing, dancing & acting? By day, I’m a mild mannered tax advisor at a global accountancy firm. By night…I’m Batman…don’t tell anyone! 

'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' runs from Thursday 15th September until Saturday 17th at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking - tickets are on sale now. You can book at our box office.

CREATIVE TEAM FOR SWEENEY TODD

We are really pleased to announce the rest of the Creative Team for Sweeney Todd. Musical Direction will be by Matt Brown who helped out with Rent and Choreography will be a combined effort from Emma Hough, who choreographed RENT and Matt Hough.  Welcome aboard the team. Nicole Connell will be Producing and Box Office. If anyone else would like to help with backstage, production roles please do get in touch,

SWEENEY TODD is CAST!

After two solid days of auditions almost 40 people auditioning we finally have a superb cast of 25 for our 2016 production, packed with talent and experience.

Sweeney Todd - Darren Street
Mrs Lovett - Sarah Jones
Judge Turpin - Akhil Gowrinath
Johanna - Emma Hough
Anthony - Jamie Wilson
Beadle Bamford - Fred Pollard
Lucy - Maria Langford
Pirelli (and ensemble) - Neil Brown
Tabby Ragg - Issie Webb / Elly Fenton (shared)
Jonas Fogg (and ensemble) - Paul Weems

and a further ensemble of 14 many of whom have been principals before for us or other groups - so packed with real talent !

Samantha Foulstone, Matt Hough, Frazer Woodhams, Ellie Lunt, Anna Tippelt, Jon Bingham, Christine Siddall, Suzi Vermiglio, Maddie Graham, Moni Parhar, Annie Imrie-Cook, Daniel Owen, David Swann, Alex Kirkham

Welcome to Sam, Anna, Christine, Suzi, Maddie, Moni, David who are all brand new to Simply and welcome back to Jamie, Neil and Darren who haven't performed with us for a little while!

Particular congratulations to Darren, Sarah, Fred and Issie on their first principal roles with us !

A really fresh and hugely talented line-up .... Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd...

 

SWEENEY TODD AUDITIONS ARE HERE

Auditioning starts tomorrow for our 2016 production with a workshop session at 10am at Compton Village Hall. If you would like to take part please do come along and join us. New members are always welcome and we already have lots of new people coming along this time. Old hands welcome too. Principal slots can be booked at the workshop if not already done so.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.... September 2016

SWEENEY TODD - FINALISED AUDITION DETAILS

We are already booking people in to our Auditions for Sweeney Todd which promises to be full of great talent yet again .

There is a workshop audition on Friday 25th March at 10am at Compton Village Hall, this is for everyone and will last until about 12.15pm. If you ONLY want to be considered for the Ensemble this is all you need to attend.

For Principals -  Audition Slots need to be booked with Alison Lawrence via ar.lawrence@outlook.com who can send the Audition Pack. All of these are readily available on our Facebook Page and Event.  There are about 40 slots available and half have already gone! So please do register your interest as soon as possible. Principal Slots are on Friday 25th March after the workshop all day and Monday 28th March all day and will be at Alison's home in Godalming.

Audition Fee is £5, Show fee is £45 Adults and £35 students/U18s and all fees should be paid on the day. Show Fees will be returned should you not be successful in gaining a place in the cast.

 

AUDITIONS FOR SWEENEY TODD

Auditions for our September 2016 production are now set up for the Easter weekend

There is a facebook event with all the details here

https://www.facebook.com/events/1525592321089163/

A morning workshop and individual slots on Friday 25th (Good Friday) and further principal slots on Monday 28th (Easter Monday) with a final callbacks on Wed 30th March (evening) - Hopefully uni students will be around - rehearsals will not start till mid/late June - Show dates are 15th-17th Sept, 2016. Audition Pieces will be posted in January when you will also be invited to book audition slots for principal characters.

Main Characters - PLEASE NOTE: Playing Ages are a GUIDE only - make up, wigs and costume are all available so please don't restrict yourselves overly !

SWEENEY TODD - Playing Age 40-50, G#-A, Baritone, Legit/Character - Morose and brooding, a barber by profession, newly returned to London after 15 years' unjust incarceration.

MRS. LOVETT - PLaying Age 40-50, E-F#, Alto/Mezzo, Character, comedic actress, with a dark side, moves well.
A cheery, chatty but wholly amoral shopkeeper whose premises and pies are coated in dust and plagued by flies. She becomes much more than merely a landlady to Mr. Todd.

ANTHONY HOPE , Playing AGE 20-25, C-F#, Tenor, Legit
A young sailor, returned from war who rescued Todd on the voyage home. Who falls in love on sight with Johanna.

JOHANNA Playing Age 16-20, C-Bb, Soprano, Legit
A beautiful girl, Todd's daughter but now claimed by Judge Turpin as his own. A bit of an airhead - yellow hair a bonus!

JUDGE TURPIN Playing Age 45-55, B-F, Baritone, Legit
A corrupt and depraved official, an upholder of justice who twists the system to serve his own ends.

BEADLE BAMFORD Playing Age 35-50, D-D, Tenor, Legit
Turpin's accomplice in his crimes. Obsequeious and subordinate.

BEGGAR WOMAN, Playing Age 35-45, A-F#, Legit , Mezzo
A mad old crone with a filthy tongue, whose cries go unheeded. Who is revealed to be Sweeney's wife Lucy.

PIRELLI, Playing Age - 30 plus/Any, G#- F#, tenor, character
An Italian barber, of Irish Extraction - Comedic, Operatic and thoroughly over the top!

TOBIAS or TABITHA RAGG(Toby or Tabby) Playing Age 12-20 , B-G, Tenor/Soprano, Legit
A simple, kind-hearted lad/Girl. who works first for Pirelli, then for Mrs. Lovett, but never trusts Todd.

Plus approx 16 ensemble roughly half male and female all ages with several featured singing, acting and dance roles
eg Jonas Fogg, Young Sweeney, Young Lucy, Young Judge, Young Beadle (There is such a lot of amazing ensemble work!)

Audition Fee is £5, Show Fee is £45 for adults and £35 for students - All Fees are payable to Audition, Show Fees will be returned if you are NOT successful in making the show cast.

 

RENT REVIEW ! - What a stunner! Courtesy of A VIEW FROM THE BALCONY, LAURA COLLEDGE

As soon as we entered the theatre I was intrigued by this production; various members of the cast who were portraying the homeless were scattered around the theatre, both onstage and off, interacting with the audience and asking for money. This allowed for a really nice transition into the beginning scenes of the show and established their quite permanent place on stage. One thing that was consistently impressive was the inherent anger within these individuals, along with the majority of the cast, which was conveyed through even the smallest of movements. In a production of this intensity it’s easy to become too dramatic and forceful, but the whole cast maintained just the right levels of understated frustration.

The beginning of Rent is undeniably slow, but this is at fault of the script and its methods of introducing the individual characters. Mark (Freddie Cox) and Roger (Matt Hough) handled these opening moments really well, launching themselves into the title song, Rent, with an enthusiasm that set the bar for the rest of the evening.  Mark, as the narrator character of the show, is written fairly neutrally into the script, and I do think that Cox could have afforded to project a little more specific personality into the character, but his performance became stronger song by song. Hough played a very broody Roger, which made his on and off relationship with Mimi make sense in a way I hadn’t considered before, and he delivered most of the difficult vocals seemingly with ease.

The staging of this production allowed for seamless transitions between scenes, with different structures and levels being convincingly reimagined throughout. The main structure was particularly effective during Mimi and Roger’s first encounter, allowing Mimi (Grace Mouat) to walk all over Roger and the apartment, in more than one sense. Mouat was the standout performer of this production for me; she was fascinatingly confident and in control and didn’t break character once. And this is without even mentioning her stunning vocals and enviable dancing.

Roger (  Matt Hough  ) and Mimi (  Grace Mouat   ) - Photo Credit:  Front of House Photography

Roger (Matt Hough) and Mimi (Grace Mouat ) - Photo Credit: Front of House Photography

One further aspect of the staging that worked really well was the screen that filled the back wall, acting both as a backdrop and a metaphorical division of time or space. I loved how we only initially witnessed Maureen (Frankie McKean) from behind through the transparency of the screen, keeping her as this elusive and mysterious figure that we kept hearing about from other characters. It really solidified the Tango of Maureen episode as well as reinforcing the fact that she has all of these people doing everything for her, allowing her only to turn up for the moment of her performance, in true diva style. And McKean certainly did justice to this side of Maureen, as well as revealing the unexpected softer and more loving parts of her character.

Maureen ( Frankie McKean ) - Photo Credit:  Front of House Photography

Maureen (Frankie McKean) - Photo Credit: Front of House Photography

However the best use of the screen was another instance where its transparency was in use, and it allowed for a beautiful scene with Mimi singing Without You downstage and Collins (Alex Kirkham) helping Angel (Jamie McNicholas) into his hospital gown and bed.

This heart-breaking moment was largely due to the relationship Kirkham and McNicholas had already established in the scenes running up to Angel’s demise. For want of a better phrase, McNicholas completely nailed the part of Angel, both in portraying the sass and playful aspects of the character and in displaying the utter selflessness that Angel comes to represent.

Yet it wasn’t until I’ll Cover You (Reprise) that the tragedy of what had happened really struck. It is so rare in amateur theatre to experience such a convincing moment of raw emotion, but Kirkham’s powerful vocal performance evidentially tore everyone to pieces, both on stage and in the audience.

Choreography played a really important part in drawing out small details in this production, particularly during numbers such as Out Tonight, Over the Moon and La Vie Boheme, and the dancing was to an impressively high standard throughout.

Joanne (  Maria Langford  ) & Mark (  Freddie Cox  ) Photo Credit:  Front of House Photography

Joanne (Maria Langford) & Mark (Freddie Cox) Photo Credit: Front of House Photography

One final moment I have to mention is Seasons of Love. The company began the second act by entering the space from behind the audience, and gradually surrounding us on their way to the stage during this song. Not only did it create an amazing sound, but it really summed-up what this show is all about; solidarity, passion and measuring  life in moments of joy. 

The company featuring Angel ( Jamie McNicholas ) & Collins (  Alex Kirkham  ) Photo Credit:  Front of House Photography

The company featuring Angel (Jamie McNicholas) & Collins (Alex Kirkham) Photo Credit: Front of House Photography

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