Business as Usual

It’s shamefully long since I wrote a post here, but that is testimony to the wonderful fact of life being lived very fully and busily, now the Covid has hopefully been relegated to an annoyance rather than something which dominates life. In particular, it’s been wonderful getting back to a full programme of theatre at MCS, along with live Manouche gigs and plenty of socialising. That said, a real highlight of last year was directing a major filmed production of Les Miserables, which turned out better than I could have hoped and was an utterly memorable experience for all involved. Our Fantine, Savannah, also sang with Manouche Etcetera at one of our gigs this year, to great acclaim.

‘I dreamed a dream’ – Savannah Willans

It was lovely to be back in a live theatre from September, though, and we produced a joyous Pirates of Penzance to celebrate the return to normality. None of the cast knew anything about Gilbert and Sullivan but all were firm converts by the end of our gloriously silly run. From January I was in rehearsal for our first major production at Oxford Playhouse since 2019; a double bill of new musicals. Composer Bob Chilcott and poet Charles Bennett had been commissioned to write a new work for us and came up with Birdland, a really beautiful piece about the power of song. It was a privilege to direct the world premiere in such a fantastic space, not least as we began our run with a sing-along performance for four hundred primary school children, which featured on BBC South! Ben Johnston made a superb documentary about the project.

We paired this with another new musical: one that I had the pleasure of co-writing with the super-talented John Mann. Leave it to Puck! was immense fun from start to finish, taking the fairy-tale form and playfully setting the beloved Shakespeare character in a modern story, though still based in an enchanted wood. We had the show filmed and you can watch it here (password: Fairy). There was plenty of other fun to be had in our annual Arts Festival, not least with our outdoor As you like it, and of course a Manouche gig or two!

‘Leave it to Puck!’

And so into the summer holiday, with a lovely wedding in Northumberland by Hadrian’s wall, followed by a week on the beach in Devon and another week house-sitting in rural Berkshire. Now back to Oxford, before heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe on Sunday for our run of Troy Story: see you there!


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