I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle based on the novel by Dodie Smith Book and lyrics Teresa Howard music Steven Edis

Saturday, 31 August 2013


James Penniston as Raoul & India Shaw-Smith as Christine

Vivo D'Arte never ceases to amaze me with the skill and incredible talent of its young performers - their production of The Phantom of the Opera is no exception.    From start to finish they gave everything the Youth Company promises: passion, commitment and excellence.

George Watkins as the Phantom

It was quite something to have got the rights to perform one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most successful musicals and I was really knocked off my seat with this production, almost forgetting at times that no one in the cast was older than 19.

Hayley White as Carlotta

Young director Dan Cowtan who trained in voice at the Royal Northern is also the vocal coach for many of the cast.  Dan's experience and directing skill really brought out the best in this young cast.  His excellent teaching has helped some of them gain prize places at many of the country's top drama and music schools including Richard Edwards (acting at Italia Conte), George Watkins (voice at Guildhall) and James Penniston (voice at the Royal Northern).

The incredible depth of emotion portrayed by the cast in this compelling musical drama was breathtaking.

George Watkins, who played the title role of Phantom has a rich powerful voice, and created a character that we were able to pity and despise simultaneously.  James Penniston was a joy to watch as Raoul, with his tender soaring voice.  He gave a profound gravitas to Raoul in his interpretation which showed a sensitivity way beyond his years.  Beautiful India Shaw-Smith was stunning as Christine and I was amazed by her fabulous voice.  Sara Lawrence gave us a brilliantly austere Madame Giry and Hayley White's comic Carlotta was absolutely on point.
Sara Lawrence as Madame Giry

There was  some fantastic comic timing in performances by Freddie Clarke, Richard Edwards and Alfie Glasser and a lovely cameo from Pippa Taylor in her Meg Giry.  The corps de ballet from the Espinosa Dance Project lent a really professional framework to the production under Yat-Sen Chang's choreographic guidance.  Fiona Quilter-Wood's choreography for the rest of the cast was inspired!

The work that had gone into the production was incredible, the costumes, set, lighting and the rousing band.  From the littlest member of the chorus, everyone gave their all to this stupendous production of Phantom - a show I shall never forget.   Well done Vivo d'Arte!!

To find out more about their courses and upcoming productions go to their website:

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Another triumph for OUDS Thelma Holt International Summer Tour, with The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare - at University Church, Oxford.

The Company

Legendary West End producer Thelma Holt, became the Cameron Mackintosh Professor in Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College Oxford in 1998, where her association with the Oxford University Drama Society began.   For fourteen years she has been taking Oxford’s top talent to produce, design, direct and perform in Shakespeare across the UK and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space.  It is through these tours that young stars like Rosamund Pike, Julian Ovenden and Rory Kinear began their careers.

This year Thelma Holt’s brilliant choice of Producer is the magnetic Jessica Campbell, who told me it was “a dream to work with such a good company” and that she has loved every moment.  Jessica is not new to the role of producer - her production of The State vs John  Hayes opened at the Hen and Chickens last summer and is now off to EdFest.  She has six other OUDs productions to her name and now that she is graduating I am sure we will get the chance to see a lot more Campbell productions in the future.  

This years brilliant young director Christopher Adams won his pitch with a vision of Comedy of Errors set in 2013 in Malaga - a contemporary equivalent of the wealth and excess of Ephesus, where Shakespeare sets the play.  Christopher wanted us to see the characters as “a community of pleasure-seekers who have drifted from their roots” and the analogy works extremely well.  He lends a particularly physical element to the production from his Lecoq training, and experience as assistant to Irina Brook’s production of Pan.

The play is one of Shakespeare’s most farcical comedies full of mistaken identity, idiotic slapstick and clever wordplay.  But beneath the surface lies a dark underbelly that seems to be touching on the quest for “self” understanding and there were times when I wondered whether I was “in earth, in heaven, or in hell, sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised”, but I loved every moment of it. 


Emma D’Arcy’s acting stage manager is a tour de force, but I will say no more because I might give it away! Adriana (Hannah Gliksten) and Luciana (Constance Greenfield) have a real sisterly connection, which must have developed through the intensive improvisation workshops that Christopher took the troupe through at the beginning of rehearsals.  Natasha Heliotis (Abess & First Merchant), has a beautiful singing voice and transformed effortlessly between her different parts.  Peter Huhne acted with real gravitas as the Duke and in contrast Dylan Townley caught the comedy with his character roles as Angelo and Jailer.  

I was very fond of Alexander Stutt as Egeon and can see why he has won a prize place at The Drama Centre.  Amelia Sparling who plays the rotund Nell and Zoe Bullock who plays Balthazar and the Courtesan are excellent comediennes.

Artemas Froushan and Hannah Gliksten as Antipholus of Ephesus and Adriana

My favourite performance was David Sheilds, who completely captivated me with his portrayal of Antipholus of Syracuse, with a mixture of sensitive and hilarious comic acting played with perfect timing.  His man servant Dromio was brought to life beautifully by Sam Plumb as a lanky camp inbetweener and his twin Dromio, Harley Viveash left us almost weeping with his mirror image of bonkers slapstick.  Artemas Froushan created a wonderfully louche Antipholus of Ephesus.

The music was exciting and eclectic, all composed especially for the show by Nathan Klein.

This Comedy of Errors is a wonderful display of energetic new talent and really well worth trying to see if you can pick it up on the tour which begins on Wednesday 14th August.

It will be running at:
Southwark Playhouse 14th to 17th August 7.30pm
and on 17th August at 3pm

18th August in the Dell at Stratford-Upon-Avon at 4pm

24th August 1pm & 7pm and 25th August at 6pm
Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space

29th August 7.30pm
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

4-7th September 7.30pm
Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

To contact the tour producer, Jessica Campbell, or the tour director, Christopher Adams please email: oudsjapantour2013@gmail.com

Friday, 9 August 2013

Possessed Shortlisted for the S and S Awards!

Steve and I have heard the our Pre-Raphaelite musical POSSESSED  has been shortlisted for the S & S Award!  This used to the be the Sidney Brown Memorial Award.  

It is a wonderful award that gives writers a weeks development workshop with a cast of leading actors, followed by an industry showcase in central London.

Last year my friend Christine Denniston and composer Gweneth Herbert received a Special Commendation from the award for their musical Before the Law.  The Winners were Denise Wright and Chris Burgess for their musical Emerald.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Working on a New Song

I have been coming up with ideas for some new musicals and writing an Arts Council application.  But a new song has been working its way through under all this and now I have begun to work on it.  This method often works out well - the ideas start to build up, I write notes and then when I can't bear to live without writing it I put it all together and begin. Although, I am not sure whether this method is any better than having to write a song under pressure, sometimes those are the best songs, because I don't have time to edit myself too much.

But now that I've begun it looks as if the title may change.  Titles are so important - if the title changes, the whole meaning of the song changes.

I discovered a wonderful book to work up song lyrics in, called The Lyricists Notebook.  I carry it everywhere.  It's about the size of an exercise book so it's easy to carry around with you, has really lovely paper, spaces to fill in about the location you wrote the song in, chord boxes, date, and inspiration and a few quotes thrown in to amuse you  - like:

"Imagination is the key to my lyrics.  The rest is painted with a little science fiction."  Jimi Hendrix - I am not sure what he means but when I am hunting down a rhyme it makes me laugh.

The great thing about this book is that when I come back to work on a song it always surprises me how much I have already written and the lists of rhymes are so useful but sometimes I have absolutely no memory of verses I worked on in it and they feel like a gift!!