Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Princes’ Dramaturgy: Henry Winlow @ Edfringe 2016

A chance encounter makes Earnest reflect on how his fairy-tale life all began. Everyone is caught up between the real and the fantasy. The two princes are looking for love and the princess wants freeing from her metaphorical tower. 

Meanwhile, Tinkerbelle needs her friend to realise that she needs no hero to save her from her curse. All Bill can dream of is someone to plant his sunflower seeds with…

The Princes’ Quest is a new musical written by  Sophie McQuillan & Henry Winlow performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, C Cubed. 


What was the inspiration for this performance?
The show was first inspired by a fake news article about an upcoming disney movie about two Princes who go on a quest for a Princess but fall in love with each other. While the movie was never to be we got thinking that this would be a great story to tell to the world and perfectly fitting for a musical. Having recently come out Henry and his ex-partner Sophie felt that working on a project like this with each other would be a fantastic thing to do. We moved away from the fantasy world however and grounded the show in a modern day setting. Our main aim however was to create an LGBT fairytale that is so rarely told.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The show was initially entered into a university drama festival, a chance to workshop the piece and initially see if it had any footing and whether people were going to enjoy it. To get the team together for this we (the writers) were keen to work with a team of people we trusted and had worked with before (as so often is the case with putting together performances). The production team were all brought on board from previous shows we had worked on and we then opened up auditions for the roles to anyone. We were lucky to find a fantastic cast that could both perform brilliantly but also work together as a unified team and enjoy it.

How did you become interested in making performance?
As a team we have all approached performance from different backgrounds and areas. I (Henry) have always been involved backstage mostly producing in the past but have had a love of musical theatre so have always enjoyed having a way to work in performance without going on stage. 

As a classically trained musician however writing a musical has been on my bucket list for a very long time so finding the opportunity to take time to do this has been brilliant. The rest of the team, Sophie the co-writer included, have mostly approached performance from on stage roles in the past and while many have stuck to this, others such as Nick our MD, Gen our producer and Olivia our director have used the experiences they gained as a performer to transfer their skills to other areas in order support making performances they love.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Some elements of the process have been typical such as our audition processes and the initial learning and teaching stages, particularly in terms of music. However the majority of the rehearsal stage was far more collaborative than any project I have previously been involved in. 

While Olivia, our director, led the way every member of the team, whether production team, performer or band had a voice in how things were staged and how parts of the show were to be interpreted. Also as writers we were both very open to changes throughout the rehearsal process and after our first set of performances as we believed that every view of people involved in the performance was vital, especially for those on the stage to feel committed to what they are doing.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Our performances main aim is to entertain our audiences and the way we do this mostly is through comedy. However we also look to have some moving moments, and have had positive responses to these in previous reviews. We also hope people leave and hope to see more LGBT fairytales in the near future.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
One of the most useful things we have undertaken to help shape audience experience was our run at the Durham University Drama Festival. We spoke to as many audience members as possible to get a feedback and work out ways to improve the show. From this we undertook extensive rewrites as well as changing parts of staging to build on the things people enjoyed. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
The show has several unique elements to it however in some ways we have purposefully tried to match elements with the musical genre, particularly thinking about conventional fairytale's like the ones portrayed by Disney.

In their pursuit of the princess, two modern-day princes realise that actually, their true affection is for each other.

Winlow, who composed the score said, ‘We wanted to use Disney-esque music to present a show about people who never normally have a movie or musical made about them.’

‘The show develops beautifully as the music guides you through every emotional turn. The story heads in several directions simultaneously so you have no idea what ending you’ll get until the last moment,’ commented Olivia Race, Director.

‘The show turns the fairy-tale genre on its head. It shows how the stuff of legend is actually present in everyday life and yet the whole thing is grounded in telling a story about characters whose stories aren’t normally heard,’ said McQuillan, writer of the book.

The show premiered at the Durham Drama Festival in February 2016. It won Best Musical and Best Actor (Joe McWilliam) as well as receiving nominations for several other awards including Best Direction, Best Supporting Actress (Bianca Watts) and Best Ensemble.

Over 2015 and 2016, the entire company involved with The Princes’ Quest has been invited to the National Student Drama Festival and between them they hold 25 Fringe Credits. This may be Front Room Productions’ debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival but The Princes’ Quest shaping up to be something quite special.

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