Spotlight On… Ged Graham

Actor and performer Ged Graham is appearing in a fantastic new musical called ‘Ireland’s Call’, and I spoke to him about his involvement with the show and also chatted to him about his career, so far…

Hi Ged, thank you for talking to Break A Leg Review, tell me about Ireland’s Call and what the audience can expect from this exciting new show.

It’s set after the second world war, following the story of Irish attempting to emigrate to Ireland. The essence of the story is set around Sean and Cora, Sean wants to start a new life and travels to New York while Cora is at home no wanting to leave her family. The show features favourite Irish songs such as Irish Rover and Danny Boy as well as original material too. I play the narrator and also three brothers, Patrick, Seamus and Bengi.

So as you’re playing multiple roles, is that challenging?

A huge challenge, I’m currently in the middle of my own personal rehearsal, trying to give each of the brothers a different personality. The narrator itself is a challenging role as I’m responsible for telling the story and hoping that the audience follow it.

Is it too early to ask if you have a favourite moment from the show, yet?

It is early days, but I feel that the song Through The Eyes of An Irishman which is used for the wedding scene is a particularly poignant moment.

How long have you been performing and have you wanted held the ambition to perform since you were a child?

I’ve been performing semi-professionally and professionally since the age of 14. I’ve taken a month out here and there but otherwise I’ve been performing for around 40 years. I clearly remember being 4 years of age and always trying to find a way of entertaining. I was born in Ireland and everyone in our family would do a party piece.

As an actor I find the hardest part is going on to my Spotlight account to update my playing age, I’ve just changed from playing Dads to playing Granddads! Although there’s a whole new set of roles and opportunities, now, although I was more like Dame Judi Dench, aging gracefully into each role, I’ve aged disgracefully!

Are there any performers who have influenced you or that you hold in high esteem?

Milo O’Shea who was in Barbarella as well as Al Pacino, Tom Courtenay. I moved from Dublin to Manchester and grew up watching Coronation Street and also lots of gritty northern dramas, they were very influential.

What would you say to encourage potential audience members to come and see Ireland’s Call?

It’s individual stories linking together to make a show that connects with the audience on various levels. There’s great dancing, great music, a Romeo and Juliet story in places and a good Irish night out! Even husbands that are dragged along and don’t really want to come will find something to connect with!

Here’s a trailer if you need any further persuading!

 

 

 

 

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MCM Midlands Comic Con ~ Telford International Centre

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Comic Con arrived at Telford International Centre, today and Cosplayers were out in force with amazing costumes adorning many patrons. Star Wars is proving a popular costumer choice as always and the UK Garrison were also presiding over proceedings as usual with appearances from Darth Vader, Darth Maul and an array of Stormtroopers.

The layout of the event was much improved from last year and the use of a side room for the theatre area was also a plus. With plenty of seating available in the theatre and a great selection of panel sessions which featured Simon Fisher-Becker, Andrew-Lee Potts, Kai Owen and Sylvester McCoy to name a few. What attended a few sessions and found it fascinating to learn facts about Simon Fisher-Becker, particularly the reason for the title of his one man show My Darlek Has A Puncture. Kai Owen also provided interesting insights into the world Torchwood and Hollyoaks.

Funko Pops remained a popular choice for shoppers at the convention, and a number of stalls had rows of them available to purchase. Vintage figures from Star Wars, Wolverine and Thundercats, to name a few, were drawing in the crowds and a wide age range of visitors was noted, too. Our youngest reporter joins us for comic con events and there are more families attending each time we go along. That is really encouraging to see, and kudos to MCM for creating an event that is family friendly but still maintains something for everyone.

We can’t wait to see what MCM in Birmingham brings next month.

The link to see all the comic cons that MCM run throughout the year is here and you can also book tickets: http://www.mcmcomicon.com

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Mike Read

Mike Read is a well known broadcaster and song writer, his latest brain-child is television programme Tin Pan Alley. This show will give song writers a chance to shine, and the show is looking for unpublished songs to put to the vote. I spoke to Mike to find out more.

Hi Mike, thanks for talking to Break A Leg ReviewTin Pan Alley sounds like a great new show, what gave you the ideas and inspiration for it?

We’ve heard the country sing, but our songwriters have always been the engine room and greatly contributed to the UK economy. Many of the most durable singers such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Cliff Richard have always credited the writers, insisting that without them they simply wouldn’t have had a career. I’ve had the idea for a few years, but the time now seems to be right.

Have you any ideas about the sort of songwriters you hope to attract? eg are you looking for people already trying to make a success of song writing or hoping this competition appeals to people who need a ‘push’ to get out there? 

It really doesn’t matter. There are songwriters right across the demographic spectrum who write songs in many different genres. They are all welcome to enter. The only information the judges see is a number and a song title. Hopefully the series will be an inspiration to those wanting to write, a boost for those who are successful and an eye opener for those wanting experience in the field.

What do you think the judges will bring to the show?

We have some 70 judges from across the industry listening and voting on line. The on screen judges we will be referring to as ‘Execs’ as they won’t be ‘judging’ as such but giving their opinions, being harsh where necessary, being inspirational and giving the writers the benefit of their experience. That said they will decide which song drops out each week. A tough decision as the quality is very high.

As a songwriter yourself, who and what inspired that area of your career and o you still pursue this now?

I love songwriting and have been fortunate enough to have had many of my songs recorded by major artists. There are no raw materials. Where songs come from and how they take shape is thankfully one of the earth’s last great mysteries!

What is your advice for potential song writers?

Listen, learn, craft and collaborate where necessary. Not every song has to be a hit song. You can write with someone in mind or with no-one in mind. It’s also great therapy and very relaxing. Try it. You don’t even have to play an instrument.

Finally, what would you say to encourage our readers to tune into your new show?

It will be innovative, creative and fun, with not only new songs but also a look back at many classics and the stories behind them.

 

More information can be found by following this link: www.tinpanalley.biz

And here’s some information on the programme!

Tin Pan Alley TV is a 10 week innovative series that will run on Showbiz TV (Sky 266) and other platforms early in 2016. There will be a set-up programme and a final programme with the eight-week series running in between. The series will be presented by broadcaster and songwriter Mike Read, produced by Scott Millaney and directed by multi-award winning director Brian Grant.

From January 1st 2016 UK songwriters will be invited to submit no more than one unpublished song on MP3 via the email address. Entries will be uploaded onto a secure area of the web site. Over a 5/6 week period these will be judged by several dozen people from all areas of the music industry. The 12 songs with the most votes will go forward to the TV series where each of the songs, and their writers, will be assigned a top record producer, who between them have been responsible for over 250 million record sales. All will be revealed…….

 

 

Of Mice and Men ~ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Kristian Phillips (Lennie) and Dudley Sutton (Candy) in Of Mice And Men (1)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a text often used for GCSE English examinations, and it’s easy to see why, for this is a play which could be analysed over and over, and then analysed again!

Starring William Rodell as George and Kristian Phillips as Lennie, and with a ‘band’ (formed by cast members) beside the stage adding to the atmosphere of the piece, this production featured a set which was easily manoeuvred by the ensemble. Notable, too was the lighting design which matched every nuance of the tale, which is powerful, dramatic and exceedingly melancholy.

We are introduced to George and Lennie when they are on their travels, again, in search of work. George is the leader of the pair as Lennie has some mental impairment. Lennie is played superbly by Kristian Phillips, he can demonstrate Lennie’s character with body language in equal ability to his delivery of the dialogue. So much larger in stature than George (William Rodell) who has been sticking up for his mate for many years and beginning to come to the end of his tether. Lennie likes to stroke soft textures such as fur and is obsessed with a dead mouse in the opening scene. Whereas George has to regularly appease his side-kick with fantasies about their own ranch, where they would “live off the fat of the land”.

Finding employment on a ranch is the beginning of the end for the enduring ‘friendship’. Despite some understanding from their colleague, Slim (Jonah Russell) and the comradeship offered by old Candy (Dudley Sutton) who has one hand and an aged, smelly dog for company (played spectacularly well by Arthur, making his stage debut!), Lennie’s behaviour is the cause of many an upset. The young man does not know his own strength, or indeed his own mind, and a step closer to the dream of working of his own ranch with George is a short-lived shot in the dark.

This emotional journey is portrayed brilliantly as a team effort, Sutton is a joy to behold as Candy, the actor is an octogenarian, now and can still project! Saoirse-Monica Jackson makes her professional debut as Curley’s ‘tarty’ siren of a wife and what a talented discovery this young actress is. The cast share a chemistry which lends itself to the play, and the relationship between Lennie and George is a particular highlight.

This master piece finishes on Saturday 13th February so get in quick!

Visit the website for more information and to book tickets for the remaining performances – http://www.Birmingham-rep.co.uk

Spotlight On… West End Wilma

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*** Spotlight On West End Wilma ***

I have the utmost respect for my fellow theatre and entertainment bloggers, and one of the hardest working and successful in the business is ‘West End Wilma’. Lovely Wilma’s site is my bible for West End Theatre. So I asked her to step out of the stalls for a few moments to tell me all about her life as a theatre blogger as well as her favourite things (none of which are raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens…).

When did your interest in theatre first start and what was the first show you watched?

I didn’t really get in to theatre until about five or six years ago. I always loved Chicago and Spamalot. They were two that I kept going back to see all the time which got me hooked!

Have you a favourite genre of theatre?

I’m a sucker for a good musical! 

Which musical and which play could you watch over and over again and never tire of?

I’ve seen Spamalot more than 30 times and never get bored of that one. Plays are harder to watch over and over again for me. I’m not sure there is one that I would rush out after the matinee and buy a ticket for the evening performance because it was so good. Plays are quite draining on the mind but wonderful to watch once!

What inspired you to start up your website and what has been the most memorable moment since West End Wilma went live?

A friend of mine said “you see so many shows, why don’t you start a blog'”so I did! I thought it was a new challenge so I gave it a go! 

Winning the Ticketmaster award for Blog of the Year was a very special moment. Also the Wilma Awards which have been running for two years now are a lot of work but worth the effort. I can’t believe people like Beverley Knight turn up to something that I’ve put on!
Who is on your wish list to interview?

Oh wow… I’m not sure. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and interview a lot of people over the years. I guess someone like Angela Lansbury would be pretty amazing to interview!

Which show are you most looking forward to seeing this year?

I’m really looking forward to The Maids at Trafalgar Studios. The Harry Potter plays should be interesting  and I can’t wait to see the new touring production of Chicago very soon!

What is your ambition for the site?

I never really had an ambition for the site as didn’t think anyone would read it. I guess I hope it continues to grow and people keep bothering to read what I write! I can’t ask for much more than that!

Favourite things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite film?

For musical films, probably Calamity Jane.

Favourite food?

Steak and Co in Leicester Square (you can always find me in there!)

Favourite things to do in London when you’re not at the theatre?

When am I ever not at the theatre?! If I’m not seeing a show you can usually find me in a bar somewhere with friends!

Favourite holiday destination?

I’m off to Spain this summer! But New York is one of my favourite places!

Favourite venue for afternoon tea?

The Sanderson Hotel do a pretty good one! Or anywhere that does Champagne Afternoon Tea!

Here’s the link to Wilma’s blog! http://www.westendwilma.com/

 

 

Spotlight On… Chris Guard

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*** Spotlight On… Chris Guard ***

I remember first seeing Chris Guard on screen as Ken Hodges in ‘Casualty’, prior to this he already had a wide range of acting credits and continued to build on this post-Casualty. However, music has become the dominant feature, lately and he is currently one half of the band ‘Leapfrogtown’. I give you the multi-talented Chris Guard!

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg Review, you’ve had a successful career to date as a musician and an actor, what inspired you to want to go into performing?

I was born into a family of actor/writers but music was around too. Flanders and Swann of Hippopotamus fame, were among many inspiring visitors, and mum was in several episodes of The Goon Show. Meanwhile Dad’s type-writer was forever hammering out plays for The Theatre Royal Windsor. I enlisted several perplexed infants for my first band at the age of 6 which was also when I wrote my first play – all one, mistyped page of it! It was printed in its hilarious entirety in the Windsor theatre programme. Basically I just liked creating things. The BBC’s David Copperfield came as a surprise. A friend had been up for a part and they hadn’t found their lead so my name came up. I was at Latymer Upper, a direct grant day school, so there was no plan for me to act, but I was allowed to audition and it just kind of happened. Next thing I knew, Dame Flora Robson was feeding me cold soup and Sir Ian Mckellen was waiting to play my grown-up self.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career, so far?

So many. First day on that first job – David Copperfield at age 12 – because it just felt so natural. Like a carpenter’s son picking up his dad’s chisel. It was a job, and I just got on with it, and everyone was so supportive and grateful because I seemed to know what I was doing!

First gig fronting a loud, new-wave band at the Windsor Castle, Kilburn.

Riding western-style with Brian Blessed on sets that had been used for Clint Eastwood movies in Almeria. That was Return to Treasure Island.

Playing the main stage at the Lively Bird Festival with The Bloogs.

Working with Sir John Gielgud was a revelation and playing the piano for Elizabeth Taylor in her hotel suite in Vienna was surreal.

Which musicians influence you?

The Overture to West Side Story was the first music that really turned me on. Leonard Bernstein – genius. Currently Robert Smith of The Cure continues to write in middle-age with fantastic freedom and passion. Beggar’s Banquet by the Rolling Stones is English rock/blues at its best. I still listen to that. Underworld are my favourite techno band. High intelligence, great beats.

So, Leapfrogtown was ‘born’ in 2013, how did the collaboration with Stuart Walton come about?

I’ve been working with Stu for years, ever since the legendary Indians in Moscow imploded and he was looking for a new project. They had started in Hornsey near Hull and worked their way to sell-out gigs in London and appearances on The Tube. Until 2013 we were principally writing and recording but when The Bloogs fell apart, we decided to step up and front it ourselves. So we’ve recruited a young band to keep us on our toes! We’ve also collaborated on music for Chinese animations, school songs and Indian film scores.

Where did the inspiration for the name Leapfrogtown come from?

Simple one that. The Bloogs were stuttering for logistical reasons so we started a side project. Gradually it took over and leaped over the other one. So I dubbed the project Leapfrogtown and it stuck.

As a song writer, what is your format for writing a song? Do you start with the lyrics, for example?

No format, but there is a loose technique that works for me. I’ll have a central idea, which will usually be the name of the song, and an idea of what I want to say. Then I get a rhythm going on the guitar and start building lyrics that travel towards that central idea. Like tributaries to a lake, the lake being the chorus. Once I’ve got the basic verse/chorus/chord structure I can add more words another time. But just as important is getting in the right head state. Some exercise til I sweat, a cold shower and a couple of beers is a great release. You get out what you put in. You can’t write in a vacuum.

What’s new for Leapfrogtown and how would you describe the music you create?

Now we’ve got a band we’re putting gigs in place and filming a ‘live’ video. We’ve been compared to Bowie, Roxy Music, Foo Fighters – but with a contemporary twist. The album is quite varied. Art rock, post-punk, ska, electro – it’s all there. Eclectic, electric, eccentric.

What are your main ambitions for the future?

To get on a big festival stage again, with the sun shining and the wind blowing. To finally get my art exhibition organised. And a dark, magical role in a movie.

Favourite Things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite music video?

Novocaine for the Soul by Eels

Favourite restaurant?

The Paris, Coverack, Cornwall

Favourite hobby?

Ornithology

Favourite cover version to sing?

A cover of a cover: Bowie’s take on Sorrow, as recorded by ‘Them’

Favourite way to relax?

Pilates, walking, Guinness, hugs.

Follow this link to the website for leapfrogtown: http://www.leapfrogtown.com/

The Gruffalo’s Child ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

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Written by Julia Donaldson, this children’s tale was off to a good start with narrator (and mouse) engaging the young audience members before the play kicked off. Catriona Mackenzie played the role outstandingly well, showing excellent facial expressions and displaying a superb vocal talent.

The Gruffalo’s Child is a story of a young adventurous gruffalo who doesn’t listen to her father’s warning about venturing into the deep dark wood. Choosing to not to heed his warning, we accompany the little scamp on its journey to discover if the big bad mouse truly exists. Along the way, the mini gruffalo meets many animals, including a snake, an owl and a fox, but the big bad mouse is nowhere to be found – or is it?

Oliver Swinton was impressive as he played multiple roles, including the gruffalo, he demonstrated good audience interaction and was somewhat of a chameleon as he switched between the different characters.  Sophie Alice was endearing as the gruffalo’s child, and her vocal harmonies with Catriona Mackenzie were beautiful.

The set complemented the story with it’s simplicity and the costumes were eye catching and went a long way towards creating the well known characters.

The audience were captivated by this hour long rendition and I’d be keen to take my child to more Julia Donaldson’s work on stage.

Tour dates can found here: http://tallstories.org.uk/shows/the-gruffalos-child

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