Entertainment Views Interviews Donna & The Dynamos (AKA MAMMA MIA! Stars Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt)

Earlier in the year I was delighted to see the latest cast of MAMMA MIA! in the west end production and they blew me away. Collectively, the Dynamos are the best three I’ve seen in all my years of watching and occasionally reviewing the show. Sara Poyzer plays Donna and she sparkles with a down to earth quality which I always feel ought to be an overt trait in Donna. Kate Graham is obviously in her element as Tanya, tongue-in-cheek humour, glamorous and loving life whilst attracting the younger man! Ricky Butt as Rosie is everything I expect the character to be – perfect comic timing and her understanding of the character’s persona shows.

MAMMA MIA!
London Cast 2018/2019

To be able to interview the three actresses who have reignited my passion for the musical was an absolutely superb opportunity, so without further ado – I give you…. DONNA AND THE DYNAMOS!!!

Sara Poyzer (Donna)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Sara, I know you’ve played Donna before on international tour, what enticed you back and made you want to play the role in the West End? 

When I finished the international tour after being on the road for four years, it was the travelling I was tired of rather than the role itself so it was a real treat to be asked to come into the west end and do it. Particularly with the second film coming out and the 20th anniversary of the show coming up. Of course there was no guarantee that I would get the job when I went for it so to be offered it was like being offered the role all over again. I was absolutely delighted!

The chemistry between the three Dynamos works so well, what do you think the secret is? 

I’ve known Kate (Graham, who plays Tanya) for years and we are very old friends and because I’ve done this show for a few years, as soon as I knew Kate was in the cast and that Ricky (Butt, who plays Rosie) had been cast as Rosie we met for coffee ahead of rehearsals and said “right, we’re mates, we’re mates on stage and off stage” and that’s grown over the past few months as we’ve got to know Ricky. We have a genuine friendship and we support each other professionally, emotionally and personally. We’re mates and I’m glad that shows on stage.

What’s your favourite Abba song in the show?

I love singing The Winner Takes It All.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2? Did it live up to your expectations? 

I thought it ticked every box as far as being very sentimental with great story telling and excellent performances. I left with a smile on my face, which was exactly how I reacted to the first film as well. I think in this day and age the film is a real tonic for life’s daily pressures and challenges. I went to the film premiere and I was star struck by the stars and celebs sitting by me so I was half watching the film and half watching Cher out the corner of my eye!

Do you think there’s room for a MAMMA MIA! 3?

I don’t know but I’d like to see Mamma Mia 2 on stage!

If you weren’t in MAMMA MIA! what would you have your eye on doing next in your career?

I don’t know, my heart is in theatre, I love doing theatre – maybe I’d go for something more serious and classical which is where my training is. I think maybe I’d like to work at the National Theatre next.

What led you into a career as a performer? 

I got a job at Nottingham Playhouse Theatre and started to see a lot of plays and it was a bit like an epiphany, I fell in love with performing and the whole romantic notion of what theatre is. So at the age of 24 I decided I wanted to go to drama school. I auditioned for a few drama schools, got in to one and got a local council grant. I trained as a straight actor but I ended up in the cast of Billy Elliot which propelled me into the world of musical theatre. I have no regrets because I absolutely love musical theatre, I think it’s a really powerful medium.

Finally, what would you say to encourage potential audience members to book a ticket and come and see you all? 

The show has so many universal themes such as friendship, love, guilt, joy and comedy. There are so many different elements in this show that I think although it sounds such a cliché when I look out during the finale each night I see people from all walks of life and it feels like it’s appealing to all of them. It’s one of those shows that ticks every box and it features the music of Abba, and they have written such amazing pop songs.

 

Kate Graham (Tanya)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Kate, so you’re no stranger to the show and indeed the role as you played Tanya on international tour, what made you decide to play the role again? 

I played the role eight years ago and I loved it. After I finished the international tour I had been waiting for it to come up when I was free.

What’s your all-time favourite Abba song?

I like Angel Eyes but I also like When All Is Said and Done. I can’t ever fail to be moved by Happy New Year, whenever I hear it I start bawling, no matter what time of year it is!

What’s your personal highlight from Mamma Mia? 

I like Under Attack, although I’m not in it! I think it’s a really good song, I love Sophie on the bed surrounded by the dads and Donna gets a really sexy costume in it. My favourite scene that I’m involved in is the bedroom scene where we sing Chiquitita and Dancing Queen, it’s just a really great scene from start to finish, the progression of it is really fun. The connection that the three of us have is great.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2?

I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it’s marvellous?

It is, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! So, moving on to your career, what led you on this particular career path? 

I just really liked doing it, I’ve always liked creating something or performing something or telling a story. I came from quite an academic family so they forced me to go to college and do a proper degree first but all the way through I carried on acting and singing in my spare time. Eventually when I’d done all my qualifications I said “now can I go and do it?” and I was told yes!

Are there any roles that are on your bucket list for the future? 

I just like working and actually the roles that I would play probably haven’t even been created yet, I love doing new things. Prior to doing it I would have said I’d like to play Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot but now I’ve done it! That’s the only role I’ve really hankered after. I always play character roles, I always play smaller roles so they tend to be quirkier and come up in things that are new and you don’t know exist yet.

Previously you worked as assistant director with the children who starred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is that something you’d be keen to go back to in the future? 

Yes I would, I really enjoyed it. I always think you’re better at teaching performance while you’re still performing yourself.

Finally what would you say to encourage everyone to come and see MAMMA MIA!? 

Come and see us, it’s a really great evening out at the theatre.

 

Ricky Butt (Rosie)

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Ricky, so first of all, how familiar were you with MAMMA MIA! before you took the role of Rosie? 

Very familiar, I’m friend with Jenny Galloway who was Rosie in the original cast and I remember meeting up with her and she told me how all the songs were going to fit in and I thought that sounds amazing. Funnily enough I did the sound effects for the very first MAMMA MIA! film as a Foley Artist. So this was a natural next step.

Congratulations on winning an Emmy for your work as a Foley Artist, by the way! What led you in that direction in the first place? 

It was when I’d had children and a friend of mine was doing it, an opportunity came up to do it with her – and it fitted in with my family. What they liked was my dancing background as it helps if you have a natural ability to move. It’s become a secondary career as when I had my children I’d turned my back on the theatre really. Now I’m back working in the theatre and I’ve been doing the Foley along with it.

As the Dynamos in Mamma Mia, yourself, Sara and Kate are by far my favourites to date – what makes that chemistry work so well? 

We just seem to click and complement each other very well. I share a dressing room with Kate who plays Tanya and we’ve got to know each other very well so we bring something new into the relationship of Rosie and Tanya every night. I take whatever she throws at me on stage and throw something back.

You also have great chemistry with Stephen Beckett as Bill…

Yes, we are on the same page, we wanted to make it feel as if the characters really like each other, I wanted it to come across that Rosie is testing the waters to begin with and not just after a man. Also, instead of wearing heels for the wedding as Rosie sometimes does, I wear flats so that we can make use of the height difference between us too.

What did you think of MAMMA MIA! 2?

I loved it, I thought particularly when the older characters came on it seemed to give it a bit of a boost and then I thought the rest of the film really worked.

Which roles have you got an ambition to play in the future? Would you carry on in musical theatre if you could? 

I’m at an age where there isn’t that much for women of my casing so I think I’ve won the lottery playing Rosie! These roles don’t really come up very often and this time I got the golden ticket! I’d been asked to audition for the role a couple of years ago and I turned it down, but I’m doing it at the right time now.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to see MAMMA MIA!? 

I know of people, even other actors who have been to see the show and have come out feeling moved and haven’t been able to believe how good it is. It is a jukebox musical and I think people think it’s going to be a bit cheesy but it’s much better than you might think it’s going to be. You’ll have a great time.

I’d like to thank all three ladies for their time, it was great fun chatting to them all and I urge you all to buy a ticket to see MAMMA MIA!: Mamma Mia Tickets 

Can I also draw your attention to the Entertainment Views Awards which are voted for by the public and part nominated by the public, part nominated by the panel. Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham, Ricky Butt and Stephen Beckett are all shortlisted as is the show itself – cast your vote by 1st November: Entertainment Views Awards 2018 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entertainment Views Interviews: Star of Evita, Lucy O’Byrne

Musical Theatre Star, Lucy O’Byrne first appeared on my radar when she appeared on The Voice in 2015 and made it to the final under the mentorship of renowned coach Will.i.am. I’ve watched her as Maria in The Sound of Music and now she’s setting the stage alight as Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic ‘Evita’. I saw the show in Malvern and in my humble opinion, O’Byrne is giving Elaine Paige a run for her money. I chatted to Lucy about the show, the challenges of such an iconic role and her favourite musical numbers in the score.

Thank for chatting to Entertainment Views, Lucy – may I congratulate you on an amazing performance as Eva. First of all, how familiar were you with Evita before you took the role? 

I played the role in college, so I learned it then and I grew up listening to the soundtrack with my dad singing along to a lot of the songs, it was like the soundtrack of my childhood. I remember seeing the movie, although I wasn’t allowed to see it when it first came out, I wasn’t old enough to watch it at the cinema so I remember watching it later on video when my parents bought it. It just has such fantastic music. It has four of my favourite songs in it.

What are your four favourite songs? 

‘High Flying Adored’, ‘You Must Love Me’, ‘The Lament’ and ‘Rainbow High’.

My favourite song from the show is Rainbow High…

Yes it’s a lot of fun to perform, Bill Deamer’s staging and choreography makes it so much fun. It’s a bit of a power trip in a weird way, just listening to it gives you an empowered feeling because it’s Eva at her strongest. That song is her saying “I know I’m this good just watch me”.

What do you feel are the challenges of the role?

It’s relentless from the moment you walk on the stage until the very end, I pretty much sing everything in the show, I’m in every number. The show spans about eighteen years and it’s the journey she goes on all the way from her as a teenager to her dying at the end, along the way you see her at the height of her power – the character has incredible energy all the way through which she holds onto even at the end. It’s quite emotionally, physically and mentally draining and there are times for example during a warm up for a matinee where you think “I’m not going to get through this” then you get to the number ‘Buenos Aires’ and the energy surrounds you.

What other roles would you like to play in the future? 

There’s so many, I’ve been incredibly lucky so far, I’ve ticked off three of my bucket list roles in quite a short space of time. I’ve got a long, long list that I’m working away at.

I first saw you when you appeared on The Voice, did you always feel that a theatrical path would be the one for you or did you have something else in mind?

No, I always had theatre in mind, my family are all involved in theatre my dad is an actor and singer, he’s now a musical director. My mum was an actor and dancer and she now has her own stage school. We grew up around it, it was never really a choice that I remember making. My dad said to me “get a real job” but I think we all knew which way it was going to go!

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see the show?

I think it’s worth a watch, I’ve always enjoyed watching the show myself, I have a ball doing it and everybody I’ve spoken to so far who’s seen the show has enjoyed it.  It’s a great story and what’s amazing about it is that it’s a true story. It’s the ultimate rags to riches, it’s the story of a strong woman, a woman who knew what she was about. It’s got some of the best show tunes ever written and some of the best melodies ever written as well.

Evita arrives in Coventry tomorrow at the Belgrade Theatre before continuing an extensive UK tour, book your tickets herehttp://www.kenwright.com/microsite/evita/#booktickets

Check out Entertainment Views’ review of the show here: https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/2018/09/05/evita-malvern-theatres/

Entertainment Views Interview: Kate Terence ~ Star of ‘The Sword of Alex’

In the clash between the political and the personal, The Sword of Alex by award-winning playwright Rib Davis examines how identity fares in the struggle, coming to the White Bear Theatre in Autumn 2018, starring Kate Terence, Georgia Winters, Patrick Regis and DK Ugonna.
You’d never defeat me in politics, not in the politics of left and right. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to get people to fight over identity than it is over ideas. Isn’t that right?
A country on the verge of civil war as a region attempts to break away from the state. Two versions of nationalism clash head-on. Two leaders and their nations pitted against each other. Each must destroy the others’ version of history. But families are no less tribal than nations. As the great games are played out at a national level, so too are domestic power struggles. This is a play that brings together national destiny, gender politics and the very ideas of identity and belonging.
Come back in ten years. Or twenty. Or when you’re dead. That’s always a good time to be forgiven. I think it’s called a pardon.

Rib Davis began his writing career in documentary theatre at The Living Archive Project. He has now worked in oral history-based theatre for over 30 years. He has worked extensively in radio (his many plays include Corridor and A Few Kind Words, and series include Unwritten Law) as well writing for television (including for The Bill). His non-documentary stage play No Further Cause for Concern, about a prison riot, won an Edinburgh Fringe First award before he went on to adapt it for television. His best-selling book Writing Dialogue for Scripts is now in its 4th edition. Rib Davis is currently holder of the Goodison Fellowship at the British Library.
Kate Terence has performed with the RSC and the Globe, and appeared on screens in Bad Girls and The Kindness of Strangers. Georgia Winters is a member of the Actors Ensemble theatre company and appeared in the film Jupiter Ascending. Patrick Regis received the Best Newcomer Award at the Screen Nations Awards, and has since appeared in Hard Sun for the BBC, and will be appearing in the second season of Snatch. DK Ugonna originated the role Vartan Sarafian in a new play Paradise Road (Tales Retold) at the Sheffield Library Theatre this year, played Othello (Lights of London) at the Moor’s Bar Theatre in Crouch End in 2017.
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One of the stars of ‘The Sword Of Alex’, Kate Terence, chatted to Entertainment Views about the production and threw in some tips for budding actors too! 
Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Kate. Tell me about the production and your character. 
The production is one of the more exciting challenges that I have taken on in a long time.  I am among a cast of four; they are all excellent actors, so the bar has been raised for me.  My character, Calantha has all the qualities of a strong but complex female character, so I am enjoying the challenge of trying to reach all aspects of her in rehearsal.
What was your initial impression of the script?
My initial impression of the script was it’s immediacy and it’s relevance to our current world.  It has a classical, timeless quality to it, but if you were to equate it with music, it is more like extremely precisely written jazz structured in a classical form.  I wanted to be part of it straight away.
What are the challenges of the piece?
The challenges are in the fact that there is the macro-view of the characters but there is also the micro view of their personal worlds, so making that have a flow that serves the play to its best is a stimulating challenge.  And there are plenty of lines to learn, but I’m not complaining!
How do you feel the space will lend itself to the production? 
The space is very intimate so the audience will receive it very clearly.  There is no room for error, which can be exposing to an actor, but is also massively exciting.  They will see something that they may well recognise and have a chance to reflect upon it more instantly.
What do you hope the reactions from the audience will be? 
I hope they are stimulated and provoked by it, that they come out at the end and find themselves talking about it’s content, relating it to their lives and the world’s politics.
Why should everybody buy a ticket to come and see it?
It is not often that a brilliantly written play comes out, with four excellent actors and a superb director.  That is why it is worth buying a ticket.
Finally, any advice for budding actors and what’s your preferred medium, stage or screen?
Advice for budding actors: stick at it, persist, develop the skin of a rhinoceros but maintain the soul of a baby.  Be choosy in what you do and challenge yourself: if you are scared of it, it’s often a reason to do it.  Always believe in yourself, but have the humility to believe you can also improve and become even better.
In terms of preferences, I love both the stage and screen.  They are two completely different mediums and over the years I’ve discovered that I enjoy both equally for differing reasons.
Thanks to Kate for an insightful interview. Book tickets to see ‘The Sword of Alex’ here: https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/WhatsOn/The-Sword-of-Alex/book?p=1359

Entertainment Views Interviews: Leo Mercer – Writer and Producer of GUY: A New Musical

The creators of multi-award-winning The Marriage of Kim K, leoe&hyde, return with an uplifting new musical about modern masculinity, body image, and the hook-ups and downs of dating in the 21st century. GUY’s heart-pounding electronic score will reel you in to this FOMO-arousing, catch-he gay rom-com, transferring to the King’s Head Theatre in a revised version after a successful premier and tour, winning multiple awards.

***** “exceptional cast… catchy [music]… a joy to watch” Theatre Box

Guy is a gay millennial looking for love. Guy is fat, nerdy and shy. Guy feels like he doesn’t fit in to the gay community. But when a rejection on Grindr pushes Guy to make terrible life choices, he is forced to confront his inner demons, all the while pushing away everyone close to him. With 12 heart-pounding electronic-pop anthems, this millennial odyssey through bingeing, gyming, prejudice, hook ups, beauty standards, and stolen identity is a much-needed reminder that the only person you can be is yourself.

****½ “[An] irresistible rom-com of the highest order… [this] show has the potential to be very big indeed” The Reviews Hub

Sometimes sexy, always real, GUY is a game-changing gay rom-com for the 2010s: with nakedly honest characters; an unapologetically moving portrayal of the hook-ups and downs of 21st-century dating; and a thought-provoking glimpse behind the veil of modern masculinity, male beauty standards, and unspoken prejudices within marginal communities. Tied together with a pioneering and infectiously catchy electronic score, GUY channels floor-filling EDM anthems, indie electronica, queer hip-hop, and PC Music with the lyrical charm of Sondheim, and the earworm melodies of Schwartz.

**** “A really fresh new musical with fantastic songs and great performances” West End Wilma

Following an acclaimed run at The Bunker, GUY’s tour won the show Best New Writing at the Buxton Fringe 2018, and the show now returns to London. The lead role of Guy is played by Brendan Matthew, who is joined by Seann Miley Moore. Moore first came to the attention of the UK public in The X Factor 2015, where he reached the finals. Since then, he’s toured gay pride internationally and launched a successful solo pop career, releasing his first EP last year. GUY is his UK theatre debut. The show is written and produced by leoe&hyde, following the success of their debut production The Marriage of Kim K (2017). The rising millennial musical theatre company received strong reviews, multiple awards and international attention last summer for the show, and have been called ‘a formidable partnership’ (Review Hub).

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Leo Mercer chatted to Entertainment Views about the musical, focusing on the challenges and what the audience can expect. 

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Leo. Tell me about the production, how did the idea form, how long did it take before the script was ready to be read/work-shopped?

After the success of The Marriage of Kim K, Stephen and I wanted to do something a little bit different. Kim K was so ornate, operatic and complex, but we’d really been getting obsessed with electronic-pop. So in October, we just sat down and wrote the pop songs that we were feeling at the time, really raw, honest and emotional, without having to worry about crafting a story.

As it turned out, a few weeks later I had an “aha” moment, when I realised that those songs essentially tell a love story not dissimilar to those that my generation tend to experience, and I drafted a script around them. Some of the songs in the show – Mutual Prostitution, Is Your Body Who You Are – were written then, and as we’ve developed the show, lots of new material has been created to fill in the important moments.

This show really was an accidental baby – WE HAD OTHER PLANS! But once an idea grabs you, you’re grabbed. We then got performance slots at Hope Mill and The Bunker, and rushed through seven drafts of the show to get it ready. We’ve redrafted it again between those performances and the run we’re about to do at The King’s Head.

Did you have a clear ideas of who you wanted to cast?

Not at all: we went into auditions with a mega open mind. It’s always difficult rejecting auditionees – there are so many brilliant people out there deserving of a part, and you just want to send them each huge emails explaining why they’re wonderful too. However, we’ve never once doubted the cast members we ended up choosing: they’re dedicated, hard-working, lovely and absolutely talented. They’ve said they feel like the characters; the audience keep commenting on the fit between cast and character; it’s become a very lovely and collaborative process.


Has your vision for the piece altered during rehearsals?

Not really, but it has deepened. There are things we want to achieve in GUY – for example: a sophisticated, almost filmic show – and the chance to practice means we’re understanding what that actually involves more day by day. It often feels like when you have an idea for a show, and it’s so clear and simple in your mind, that the whole writing and production process is about trying to reach that simple, end point, but you go through lots of complex groundwork to get there.

What can the audience expect from the show?

Someone tweeted after the show saying the show fulfilled their expectations of being unexpected, and I think that sounds about right. Our shows always take a very pop culture matter – Kim Kardashian in The Marriage of Kim K, Grindr in GUY – but approaches them as if they’re something you’d expect from something much more “establishedly cultural”

What do you envisage audience reactions might be?

 Stephen and I always joke that we wish we had a mind-scanner, and as everyone leaves the show could collect all the thoughts that people have. Based on what we’ve heard, I’d imagine that mind-scanner would detect several earworms, an intense sense of connection with Guy, and a sense that they’ve seen some aspect of their own life mirrored back at them.

What do you hope they’ll take away from the piece?

I don’t really know what catharsis is, but I think that’s the aim? 21st century society has made a lot of humans very confused about their bodies and what love should be, and watching a closely observed character deal with this will hopefully let a reader go on their own psychological journey at the same time as Guy does.

Thanks to Leo for an insightful interview, wishing the cast and crew all the best for their run. The show runs until Saturday 1 September 2018. 

Book tickets here: GUY Tickets

 

 

Entertainment Views Interview: Deborah Ramsay – Star of Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance

Deborah Ramsay, an actor whom I’d not ‘met’ before until I spotted her in ‘Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance’ on Lifetime TV in May this year. As the title suggests, the film is a ‘take’ on the romance of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on the lead up to their wedding on 19th May. I didn’t expect it to be my cup of tea, I’m a royalist and I was excited about the impending nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan – but a television movie depicting it? The idea wasn’t floating my boat!

How wrong could I be? Not only did I love the film and I admit I’ve watched it more than once, I was delighted to find an extraordinary actor playing the role of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Deborah Ramsay shone in the role, although her screen time was limited in comparison to other members of the cast. She had perfect chemistry with the wonderful Steve Coulter as Prince Charles and was spot on in all aspects of the portrayal of one of my favourite members of the royal family.

I was delighted that Deborah agreed to an interview with Entertainment Views, so without further ado, let’s here from the lady herself…

Deborah as Camilla with Steve Coulter as Prince Charles
Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, you recently appeared on our radar when you played the role of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in the TV movie Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. How did you prepare to audition to play such a prolific figure?
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Entertainment Views
Preparing for the role of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall was a delightful experience because I have admired her courage to follow her passion even in the face of adversity. Being British and Canadian was helpful in understanding Camilla’s essence and the importance of her role in Britain and the Commonwealth countries.
I watched numerous videos and read articles about Camilla who supports many causes and charities –  domestic violence toward women, care and rehabilitation of working animals post war and celebrating Britain burgeoning wine industry to name a few. I explored our common ground  – I’ve always been drawn to the British Royals ever since I found Queen Elizabeth II ‘s Official Coronation Commemorative books at home (my father brought them back after her coronation). I spent what seemed like hours, as a kid, savouring their splendour! Also, like Camilla, I have a passion for animals and their protection – I rode horses,  ran a stable and understand the horsey set!  Camilla’s sense of humour and ability to put others at ease are qualities that inspire me. She spoke so kindly when Meghan Markle became engaged to Prince Harry. 
Can you share what life was like on set? What was the highlight for you personally while filming the movie?
Being on set was especially exciting for me in part because the Director was Menaj Huda who directed 39 episodes of Coronation Street – I’m a Corrie fan through and through! Also, working with the highly talented Parisa Fitz-Henley, Murray Fraser and Stephen Coulter was so much fun! We shared jokes between takes which made the 15+ hour days go so fast!
The highlight of this experience for me was the dedication of cast and crew to make the product spectacular!
I thought you were spot on as the Duchess of Cornwall. What’s your opinion of Camilla? Would you play her again if asked?
I would love to play Camilla again! Maybe she could visit Coronation Street? 
Did you watch the Royal wedding? What did you think?
Of course, I watched the Royal wedding (I’ve watched all of them!) – loved every moment of it! It was moving to see how happy Prince Harry was and what a unique royal wedding it was!
Has acting always been one of your first loves?
I came late to acting and I’m glad that I can bring my life experience to the roles I play. I am excited there are more interesting and complex roles for women of a certain age now.
What are the key elements a script must have to pique your interest?
I love scripts which have well-developed characters showing the full spectrum of human emotion.
Finally, if you could offer one tip to budding up and coming actors, what would it be?
The only acting advice I have at this stage is to be very kind to yourself when you are creating – learn as much as you can about yourself so you can nurture your art.
I’m honoured that Deborah gave up her time for this interview and very excited to see what the future holds for her, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for her next projects. If you haven’t seen ‘Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance‘, try and catch it (it may be repeated on Lifetime TV channel) and see for yourself what a marvellous job Deborah does!
Photo sources: IMDB

Entertainment Views Interview: Swap’ra Co-Founder, Anna Patalong

SWAP’ra is a charitable organisation founded by a group of artists working in the opera industry. We have come together as a team of volunteers to build a supportive community to effect positive change for women and parents in opera by:

  • celebrating professional achievements in an industry where women are underrepresented in so many areas
  • collating data from existing artists in the industry and offering effective and workable  solutions for companies
  • establishing a friendly, supportive and non-judgemental community 
  • providing a platform for performance and publicity challenging preconceptions to improve attitudes towards women and parents in the arts
Swap'ra
SWAP’ra Founders

Entertainment Views were very excited to learn that these inspirational women are hosting a fantastic gala:

The SWAP’ra Gala will raise money for the various creative projects we have lined up, including our grant for opera parents, our mentorship schemes, and further performance opportunities for less established female artists.  SWAP’ra is run by five volunteers and everyone in the gala is generously donating their time and expertise, stage managers included.

Hosted by star of stage and screen Fiona Shaw*, the SWAP’ra Gala is a celebration of the incredible wealth of female talent in the opera industry. A series of semi-staged scenes conducted, directed, performed and accompanied by some of the UK’s best loved artists, the evening is not one to be missed. Featuring music from opera favourites such as Le Nozze di Figaro, Madama Butterfly, and Eugene Onegin as well as contemporary work by female composers Elena Langer, Roxanna Panufnik and Josephine Stephenson, the gala promises to be a spectacular event showcasing nearly 40 much-loved soloists, from rising-stars to the stars themselves. 

Conductors include: Jessica Cottis (Gala Music Director),  Alice Farnham,  Sonia Ben Santamaria,  Susannah Wapshott

Directors include: Lucy Bradley,  Poppy Burton-Morgan, Daisy Evans, Karen Gillingham,  Sophie Gilpin (SWAP’ra co-founder),  Francesca Gilpin,  Ella Marchment (SWAP’ra co-founder),  Ruth Mariner,  Robin Norton-Hale

Singers include**: Rosie Aldridge,  Giselle Allen,  Jeni Bern,  Mary Bevan,  Katie Bird,  Lee Bisset,  Rebecca Bottone,  Katie Bray,  Katherine Broderick,  Rhonda Browne, Rebecca Caine,  Catherine Carby,  Emma Carrington, Sarah Castle, Fleur de Bray,  Anna Devin,  Carolyn Dobbin,  Anne Sophie Duprels,  Jennifer France,  Nazan Fikret,  Catherine Hopper,  Yvonne Howard,  Jennifer Johnston, Gaynor Keeble, Gillian Keith, Fiona Kimm,  Janis Kelly,  Rhian Lois,  Caroline Macphie,  Diana Montague,  Anna Patalong (SWAP’ra co-founder),  Madeleine Pierard (SWAP’ra co-founder), Samantha Price, Gillian Ramm,  Meeta Raval,  Amanda Roocroft,  Lucy Schaufer,  Helen Sherman,  Angela Simkin,  Sarah Tynan (SWAP’ra patron),  Kitty Whately (SWAP’ra co-founder),  Catherine Wyn Rogers.

Orchestra: All-female SWAP’ra Orchestra

Concertmaster: Kirra Thomas

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Here at Entertainment Views, I was bowled over by such a brilliant idea, this charity is such an innovative initiative. Many of you may know that I am a working mum, I work within the arts but also for the NHS. I was lucky to be able to return to my old job with a local NHS Trust following maternity leave and on a part-time, job-share basis. Although in the long-run I felt that childcare ‘issues’ forced my hand and had me seeking employment elsewhere – there’s no denying that I could have stayed in a job share, in a job that I had loved doing for seven years prior to becoming a mum. Everybody should be entitled to such a flexible opportunity. 

Entertainment Views were delighted to chat with one of the Founders, Anna Patalong, about the Gala at Opera Holland Park on 21st July 2018. 

Thank you for your time, Anna, tell me about SWAPra and where the idea originated from. 

SWAP’ra is all about building a supportive community for women and parents in the opera world. We’re starting a conversation, raising awareness and creating positive change to allow opera careers flourish.
We’re a volunteer group of female opera professionals – three singers, two directors and a conductor; and three of us have children – hence the idea for SWAP’ra emerged quite naturally, although that wasn’t the only catalyst.
It was exactly one week before the Weinstein story properly broke and I had just read an article by director Sophie Gilpin (SWAP’ra co-founder) detailing some of the shocking disparities that still exist today between the number of top jobs held by male and female professionals in our industry. This, coupled with several practical ideas that were coming through a private Facebook forum (that sought to ease pressures on parents returning to work) gave me the idea to set up a platform that I hoped wold bring bright and talented women together, give us a stronger voice and see what suggestions we could come up with for an industry eager to be at the forefront of equality and opportunity.
I had only briefly met some of the members of our group before our first meeting, so was of course filled with some anxiety – will they think the same as me, are we capable of making this type of change, will people care? I suddenly felt a big weight of expectation and responsibility, but we did it, our first meeting! We’d started, we’d taken that first step and after discussing our different experiences and skills, I knew more than ever we were heading in the right direction.
What enticed you into a career in Opera? 
Its a cliché, but I think opera is really something that chooses you rather than the other way around. I began as a pianist, but spent much of my youth obsessed with the theatre. I came to opera quite late, receiving my first singing lesson whilst at university. I’ve been hooked ever since!
How easy do you find juggling parenthood and a career in opera at the moment? Are you encountering any flexibility in the industry? 
I am very fortunate to have the help and support of my family and partner (who is also an opera singer) to cover childcare and fill in when I can’t, but it’s still no walk in the park. The opera industry is equally demanding and rewarding (arguably part of its appeal) but it’s clear there are things that can be done, as in every industry, to support those who might struggle through parenthood.
At SWAP’ra, we recognise that support is not afforded to everyone, some professionals don’t have family flying out for babysitting duties, others face financial challenges or they’re simply not able to organise schedules around feeding times.
This is why SWAP’ra exists, to help ease these problems – and we believe our network (made up of supportive opera professionals) is crucially important in that effort. We hope it will generate workable ideas and create positive change from within our industry that will alleviate pressures on new parents and help maintain a talented pool of the highest quality opera professionals, no matter their parenting status.
Already we have encountered positive feedback from leading companies in the industry, who have not only been receptive to our aims, but have actioned them too. Opera Holland Park have this year put into place new systems of scheduling and pioneered our ‘Parent Pack’, inspiring other opera companies to follow suit. We cannot thank them all enough.
In our experience, opera companies often work as a ‘family’ and are always keen to help their artists wherever they can, greatly encouraging for all of us at SWAP’ra.
Yet, when speaking at a career development day at my old college (GSMD) recently, it is clear this is not a view widely understood in our industry. The main question posed to me by the majority of the female students (and some men) was ‘Will I be able to have a career and a family?’ Many women are reportedly still being told that they must choose.
We hope that by publicising the many inspiring women that are doing brilliantly (read their interviews on our website) and providing mentorship schemes in the future, we will be go some way to changing this outdated and restrictive narrative.
What’s your ideal ultimate outcome for all of your hard work with SWAP’ra? 
I guess put simply, it’s to help remove all barriers that prevent women and parents achieving their full potential in opera and to arrive at a point where female conductors, composers, directors are no longer the exception to the rule.
What can we expect from the SWAP’ra Gala? Why should everyone buy a ticket and come to see it? 
The SWAP’ra Gala will be the largest gathering of female operatic talent ever seen in one line-up, on one night, anywhere in the world.
We have huge stars lined up, including singers, conductors, directors, composers and musicians, to perform some of the most beautiful and breath-taking scenes from across the repertoire. Every single penny of the gala will go towards our future projects and we are eternally grateful to all the incredible artists and professionals that have supported our cause so far, giving their time and talent for free.

BOOK NOW for the SWAP’ra Gala on 31st July at Opera Holland Park: SWAP’ra Gala Box Office

The Entertainment Views family will be there supporting such a worthy cause and can’t wait to see such a terrific line-up. Once again, thanks to Anna for her time, thanks should go to all of the amazing women who founded SWAP’ra, you’ll all be making such a difference.

Entertainment Views Interviews: Soprano, Eleanor Dennis

Soprano, Eleanor Dennis arrived on my radar when I attended Three Choirs Festival at Worcester Cathedral. Her voice is so exquisite that it still resonates almost a year on. Since then I’ve been keeping an eye on her career and have thus far been unable to make the requisite journeys see her on stage. However, I am delighted to be seeing her next month when she appears in Three Choirs Festival again, in Hereford. 

I’m delighted that she’s allowed me to chat to her about her career to date, so without further ado…

Thanks so much for talking to Entertainment Views, Eleanor. First of all, tell me what inspired you to pursue a career in Opera.

I grew up in a very musical household in Aberdeenshire. My parents were both involved with the Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society, who put fully staged operas on every year. They couldn’t always find a babysitter, so my brother and I usually ended up onstage in the big chorus scenes. My first operatic memory is being in the Peter Grimes opening chorus, aged about 4, and having the time of my life! From then on, opera just became the thing I loved.

Earlier this year you appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with ENO, tell me about the experience and what you enjoyed most about playing the role of Helena?

I absolutely loved being involved with this production – it’s so iconic. Helena is immense fun to play – she has some glorious music to sing, and is so feisty! I really enjoyed the physical challenge presented by this particular staging, I came offstage feeling like I’d done quite a workout!

Last year I saw you perform at 3 Choirs Festival at Worcester Cathedral, what were the challenges of singing Mendelssohn’s St Paul?

St Paul is quite unusual, in that the soprano role is mostly accompanied recitative, rather than arias. This can be tricky, as in recit, you’re responsible for conveying the story to the audience. I think the main challenge for me was making sure my text and intention were clear enough to get the message of the work across to the audience.

What do you find are the main differences between performing Oratorio and Opera? Do you have a preference?

They are two very different beasts, both as dramatic as each other, but in very different ways. With opera, you can really lose yourself in a character, with the costumes, set and distance from the audience. With oratorio, it feels more intimate to me, it’s just you in front of a chorus and orchestra, creating a piece of drama, with words and music alone. I love both equally – although you do get some wonderful frocks in opera!

Eleanor Dennis with Kitty Whately in Cosi Fan Tutte at Opera Holland Park –
Photo Credit: Robert Workman

You’re currently appearing in Cosi Fan Tutte, tell me about the production and the character you’re playing. 

It’s a really beautiful period production, set in Naples in the 1790s, when the opera was written. I play Fiordiligi, one of two sisters, who have a very cruel trick played on them by their fiances… she goes through a real rollercoaster of emotions, and I’ve found it fascinating to play her. It helps that she has the most sublime music to sing!

What are your personal highlights in Cosi Fan Tutte?

My absolute favourite part of the opera is the duet Fiordiligi sings with Ferrando in act two, where she finally gives in to her feelings for him. It is so perfectly written – it conveys the tumultuous emotions so clearly. I also love singing her act two aria “per pieta” – for me, it’s Mozart’s finest soprano aria.

What are your ambitions for the future? Any roles you’re keen to play, in particular? 

I’d love to take on some of Strauss’ great heroines – Arabella, Marschallin – and maybe even dip my toe into some Wagner… All in good time, though! My favourite opera is Peter Grimes, so I’d also really like to play Ellen Orford.

Who are your favourite composers and why?

I think Mozart will always be my favourite to listen to, and to sing, he had a real understanding of the human voice. I also love Britten, for his amazing word painting, and you can’t really beat Puccini when it comes to high-emotion arias.

What’s coming up for you next?

I’m heading to Madrid next week to do Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Auditorio Nacional de Musica, which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll also be great to head back to ENO next season, where I’m doing 1st Lady in Magic Flute.

Cosi Fan Tutte has completed its run as we go to press, however, as you can see there are plenty of opportunities coming up to see Eleanor performing. Another great big thank you to her for a superb interview. 

Entertainment Views Interviews: Creator of TV Series, Romper Stomper… Geoffrey Wright

Romper Stomper arrives on DVD TODAY!


A QUARTER of a century ago, a film about skinhead racists running amok in Australia exploded around the world in an orgy of violence, shocking audiences with its realistic take on neo-Nazi culture and making a star of its young lead, Russell Crowe. Now, with nationalism and racism on the rise around the globe, Romper Stomper is set to return for its sequel, this time as a powerful and daring TV series, with a distinctly modern take.

Generating both critical acclaim and controversy across the globe, Romper Stomper arrives as a compelling six-part series. Following its run on BBC Three, it makes its DVD bow on 18 June 2018 courtesy of Acorn Media International.

Original writer and director Geoffrey Wright has created a new world in and around Melbourne, one inhabited by right-wing extremists, anti-fascist revolutionaries radicals and a group of Muslims caught between them. He has also revived some of the characters from the 1992 feature, played by original cast Dan Wyllie (Love My Way), John Brumpton (The Loved Ones) and Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner). They are joined by Lachy Hulme (Beaconsfield), Sophie Lowe (The Slap), David Wenham (Top of the Lake), Nicole Chamoun (Last Dance), and rising star Toby Wallace (Boys In The Trees).

Told from multiple points of view, Romper Stomper follows Patriot Blue, a new generation of white supremacists. Into their midst comes Kane, a smart, young 22-year-old with a secret past and a plan to secure his place in the group. His street smarts and winning way with words soon see him rising to the top as his band of hardcore right-wing extremists come into contact with both anti-fascist hardliners and a trio of conflicted Muslims. And as their rivalry intensifies, a wider political thriller emerges…

Series Creator, Geoffrey Wright chatted to Entertainment Views about the television series. 

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Geoffrey. When you first wrote Romper Stomper (the movie) where had your inspiration originated from?

I grew up near a suburb called Pascoe Vale. It was here that a skinhead Nazi crim called Dane Sweetman murdered a man on Hitler’s birthday. It was a shock but then I noticed other skinheads with their swastikas, racist tattoos, and steel capped boots, on the local trains. I realised you didn’t have to go far to find them. Something had to be said about them so I began interviewing and recording kids who had been part of that scene but who were (more or less) out of it.  I couldn’t interview anyone still operating in it because they wouldn’t talk. From those interviews I assembled the script for the movie, compounding many events into a compressed time span.

Why do you feel now is the right time to revisit it?

With the rise of the Alt Right in the USA, the election of Trump, and  the coming of Brexit, it felt like the far right was less shy about making its presence felt. The far right was selling itself as a viable political force, not a fringe dwelling oddity.  It seemed like the moment had come when someone like Hando in the old film would look around and think ‘Mmm, this is more than interesting’.

What can the audience expect from the TV series and how will it compare to the film?

The audience can expect a new generation of extremists trying to ‘top’ or live up to the expectations of the old. They can also expect new players like ‘Antifasc’, our take on ‘Antifa’, who are the far left opponents of the Nazis and at least as physical and combative as them. There’s also some exploration of identity, whether it’s inherited or open to choice.

What are the challenges of bringing this to the small screen?

The challenges are working with sometimes very large numbers of people in very short shooting schedules, not that the film had a long shoot, either.

What do you feel the strengths of the piece are?

I think it tackles difficult material in a medium too given to political correctness. From a technical angle, it’s a well designed show that tends to avoid predictable execution in terms of camera and sound. I think it makes the most of today’s bigger screens and better sound systems. That doesn’t happen enough in TV.

Do you feel that writing and directing have an easy symmetry?

Do you mean writing and directing the same work? They can have a very clean and satisfying symmetry but directing off someone else’s writing is good too. On the series I wrote two episodes but only directed one of those I wrote. The other episode I directed was written by someone else and that can be liberating because you have (literally) fewer preconceptions. However, I do get anxious watching others direct something that I wrote.

What advice of you got for budding writers and directors?

Try and capture some kind of truth about human beings, be memorable in the process. If your work isn’t memorable it’s not worth doing.

Finally, why should we all tune in to the series?

Too much of the western world is worried about causing offence, you won’t get that fear in this show. Besides, we have some great young actors, Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan, Markella Kavanagh, and Sophie Lowe; and some great established stars in Jacqueline McKenzie, Lachy Hulme and David Wenham.

Huge thanks to Geoffrey for his time and insightful answers – make sure you all look out for Romper Stomper which was released on DVD today. 

Entertainment Views Interviews: Star of Matilda, Rebecca Thornhill

Matilda The Musical is on UK tour – book your tickets to see the show, here: Matilda the Musical Tickets

Rebecca Thornhill first became a familiar face and voice to me when she appeared in the National Theatre’s Oklahoma, starring alongside one other than Hugh Jackman! I also recall her performance as Mrs Banks in the stage version of Mary Poppins, she was outstanding. When I heard that she’s appearing as Mrs Wormwood in Matilda The Musical I was extremely excited to have the opportunity of putting some questions to her about the show – without further ado…

Thank you for talking to Entertainment Views, Rebecca. Tell me about Matilda The Musical and the part you’re playing…

I’m playing Mrs Wormwood, Matilda’s mum. Matilda’s mum is more occupied with herself that her daughter.

How familiar were you with the story before you joined the cast?

I had read the book a while back but I knew the film very well.

What’s your personal highlight in the show?

My number ‘Loud’ which is gruelling fun!

What are the challenges of your role? 

Like most roles, keeping It fresh as the first performance.

Which character would you like to play if you could swap for a day?

Miss Trunchbull. It’s the best!

Why do you think that Roald Dahl stories have remained such a firm favourite?

 People can relate to the characters in their own lives and love the morals he teaches us. Also, we all love a dark side.

What can the audience expect from the show?

To have their emotions woken up and be a child again and for the children to be inspired by the amazing kids!

Why should everybody book a ticket to come and see it?

It’s the best night out ever!

Huge thanks to Rebecca for a fantastic insight, looking forward to hearing my Guest Reviewer’s opinion after next week’s performance in Milton Keynes! 

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