Monday, 20 June 2016

Dramaturgy Unseen: Natalie Arle-Toyne @ Oran Mor

Songs Unseen
Dates of show: 1st July 2016 Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2nd July HAC, irvine and 3rd July, Edinburgh Storytelling Centre

Songs Unseen’ follows on from the success of New Inck Theatre's 'Scenes Unseen', produced in association with the Tron Theatre Glasgow.
Scenes Unseen brought unseen work from Alan Ayckbourn, Patrick Marber and Athol Fugard together with new pieces from emerging Scottish writers. 

Capall Dorcha Theatre Company have teamed up with New Inck for 'Songs Unseen' which offers world premieres of songs from Tony Nominated Bill Russell and Janet Hood (Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Sideshow) and Oliver Award Winning Stiles and Drewe (Mary Poppins, Honk) sitting side-by-side with unseen songs from Scottish composer Karen MacIver (pianopiano) and lyricist John Cairney, Andrew Cruickshank (Bafta Scotland Award winner), Alan Penman, and emerging Scottish composers Finn Anderson (Streets) and Gus Gowland (Pieces of String).

Directed by Dr Donna Soto Morettini (Performance Coach for Andrew LLoyd Webber’s BBC shows, ‘I’d Do Anything’, ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’; and Casting Director for ‘The Voice’), and featuring a stand-out cast including Natalie Arle-Toyne (Hairspray & Company), Barry Robertson (Closer Than Ever, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Rosie Houlton, Neil Thomas (Little Shop of Horrors, Company) and Lauren Ellis-Steele (BBC's 6Degrees and Wicked No. 1 Tour).

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Songs Unseen was a natural next step for New Inck after a successful run of Scenes Unseen in association with The Tron Theatre, which brought world premieres from Alan Ayckbourn, Patrick Marber and Athol Fugard together with unseen work from emerging Scottish playwrights, and was called ‘a bold theatrical experiment that is also remarkably entertaining’ (Times ★★★★) and ‘A fascinating evening of theatre.’ (Scotsman ★★★★). 

Capall Dorcha Theatre Company and New Inck have joined forces with "Songs Unseen", which is being supported by Olivier Award winners Stiles and Drewe and Tony Nominees Bill Russell and Janet Hood.  We have some cracking never before seen songs spun together in a song cycle by director Dr Donna Soto-Morettini.
credit: Rae Mitchell

I know and sing for a lot of composers, musical theatre and otherwise, that are Scottish or Scottish-based and are not known outside of the Scottish theatrical circles.  This project is promoting and celebrating their work.  Some are established Scottish composers like Alan Penman and Karen McIver and some are emerging writers like Gus Gowland and Finn Anderson.

This short run is a launch for website  which will have composer/lyricist profiles and their sheet music and recordings from the show on sale.  

We want to know what the audience think of the material up for offer, so we can choose which pieces to move forward into research and development, hence the Q&A's after each performance. We want to build something with longevity, and do two of these a year to promote emerging composers and lyricists.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

Artistic Director of Capall Dorcha Theatre Company, Barry Robertson, has been hankering on at me to get going with the project since I started talking about back in 2013.  He is passionate about new musical theatre and the perfect partner for Songs Unseen. 

Musical Director Stuart William Fleming, like Barry and me, wants to make new work happen in Scotland.  The three of us are teaming up to create the company Songs Unseen Ltd to make sure we keep this moving.  

The next logical step was to pick a director who has experience working with new musical theatre and were lucky enough to have Dr Donna Soto-Morettini agree to take on the role.  She has been an invaluable friend and advisor to me since I studied with her at the then RSAMD.  She is an incredible vocal coach and director, and I have never been more inspired or challenged than when she is in the room working with me.  

How did you become interested in making performance?

I am South African and studied to be an actor on a course that was driven by making new work.  There is nothing more exciting than watching a seed of an idea grow arms and legs and tentacles.  After I graduated, I was lucky enough to work with some great companies on classic texts, but I was also a part of a group of actors that wanted to continue to make some exciting new work of our own, which was just as well when paying for rights with the South African Rand was not cheap.  

With Scenes Unseen and Songs Unseen, I am a facilitator or collator of sorts. Rather than having made the work myself, my job is to pull together a cohesive evening of theatre and music.  

I performed in Bill Russell and Janet Hood's Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens for Insideout Productions in 2011 at the Tron.   It was then that Bill Russell and I got in contact and I later met him in NYC.  He is a wonderful, generous man and was surprised that there wasn't more Musical Theatre bring produced in Scotland.  His new show Everlasting Joy, written with his musical partner Janet Hood, will premiere in the Summer at Wellfleet on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  We have the world premiere of three of the songs from that musical, and a never-before-seen gem from Stiles and Drewe, for our July launch show, which will attract a certain audience that may not have previously considered going to a new musical theatre evening, as well as the audience that is after new sounds.   

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

It was similar to Scenes Unseen in that I first approached big names to see if they had unseen work they were willing to give to the project, which would sit beside Scottish composers that don't yet have an international presence, all to support emerging composers and lyricists here.  Creatives are always willing to help, the generosity never ceases to amaze me. 

Then I begin to build a team that will ensure quality production standards and the long haul begins.  I am actor with a passion for new work, and I've fallen into producing so I'm learning on the job.  It's hard work.

After the meetings with PRS and the Musicians Union to ensure we were looking after the composers as best we could, the writing of funding applications begin, then the marketing takes over, and just when you think you'll never see the inside of a rehearsal room again, the creative stuff starts to come together.  Director and musical director and producer meetings start to sew together a show and before you know it you're in a room devising monologue links and transitions with a bunch of talented charismatic people with voices to die for. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Our composers include Alan Penman and lyricist Johnny McKnight, Karen McIver and lyricist John Cairney, Andrew Cruikshank, Gus Gowland, Finn Anderson, and of course Stiles and Drewe and Bill Russell and Janet Hood.  All of the songs are from different show ideas and there is an eclectic range of genres and styles.  Certain themes have sung out though, hence the idea of a song cycle which we're linking with short pieces of text.  I think each audience member will come away having seen a different show depending on what resonates with them.  

We have an incredible 5-strong cast of performers including the wonderful Neil Thomas (Little Shop of Horrors, Company), Lauren Ellis-Steele (BBCs 6Degrees and Wicked No.1 Tour), and Barry Robertson (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and Rosie Houlton (Girls Night).

We want the audience to be a part of the process of choosing which show ideas move forward into research and development.  It's important that we are listening to the people supporting this new work so we bring back a full-scale musical that hits the ground running.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

A range of voices was important so that the audience were hearing songs through different instruments. We toyed with adding some of the scenes from the unfinished shows the songs have been taken from, but then decided that it would make the evening too bitty.  

A song cycle, like "Songs From A New World" was the ideal model to use, where themes and relationships between characters are created and then shifted or dissolved.  We've added some short pieces of text to the song cycle but really we want the music to be central.  This gave us scope to play with the material given to create something cohesive, a complete theatrical showing.   

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

New Musical Theatre evenings are popular in the U.S and down in London and are usually framed in an informal cabaret setting where performers chat a bit about each song before it's sung.  We want to format the evening differently so that the audience have a theatrical experience of these different songs sewn together into one cohesive show.  It still falls under Musical Theatre but it's new work from world-renowned composers and lyricists sitting alongside emergent Scottish writers. 

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