- Theatre review: RENT – 20th Anniversary – St James Theatre, London - 18 December, 2016
- Side Show: The Musical – Review – 4 Vada Stars - 13 November, 2016
- Theatre review: Murder Ballad @ Arts Theatre, London West End - 27 October, 2016
My piece this week is a little different to my usual review or preview write up for a production. A good friend of mine joined the cast of a new show called Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens – a production inspired by the Names AIDS Project Memorial Quilt.
The show opened Tuesday this week and runs until the end of next week at The White Bear Theatre in Kennington. The two producers of the show, Marc Kelly and Liz Chadwick, were kind enough to give me some of their time to grill them for our readers on this great piece of theatre.
[Questions by Adam Wollerton of Vada, Replies by Marc Kelly and Liz Chadwick:]
What is Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens about?
‘Elegies…’ is a musical song cycle based on the Names AIDS Project Memorial Quilt. It is a series of monologues and songs. Each monologues tells the story of an individual who has lost their life to AIDS, whereas the songs are from the point of view of somebody who has lost a loved one to the disease. There is no linear story line but each character is linked by their connection to the disease.
What is a Song Cycle and how is it different to a musical? How would you describe the music in the show?
A song cycle is a group of songs designed to be performed in a single sequence. As a rule they are written by the same composer and this is true of ‘Elegies…’. They are linked by a common theme, in this show the link is that all of the songs are written from the point of view of someone who has lost a loved one to AIDS and is dealing with this loss. This differs from a musical because there is no through story line and no common characters, each song (and monologue) is told from a new perspective.
The music is not typical of a musical theatre piece as it is more of pop music score with influences from jazz, blues and rock.
How is the show linked to the AIDS memorial quilt?
The quilt is a patchwork made up of thousands of panels. Each panel has been made to remember someone who has died from AIDS. In the show each monologue is based on a single panel from the quilt, and tells their story.
What brought each of you to the piece?
We have always been fans of the music since first hearing it over 10 years ago. The more we looked into the piece, the more we enjoyed it and the more we wanted to put it on. As it is our first project together as producers we had a minimal budget; this show can be performed on a small scale without the need for much set, bringing the cost down, but is still just as powerful, if not more so.
How did you two meet and decide to produce?
We meet over ten years ago at our first week of university at Cumbria Institute of the Arts and hit it of straight away. We were both on the same course, Musical Theatre (surprise surprise) and found a common interest in new and less well-known shows. We lived together for 3 years and then went our separate for a while, I moved to London and Liz moved to York, but always kept in touch. About 2 years ago Liz messaged me and we met up, it was like nothing had ever changed. Liz was producing another show and asked me to take part in it. The show was ‘Tomorrow Morning’, we had such a great time and realised we worked really well and had similar vision for theatre. Then we decided to try and make a go of producing together and ‘Elegies’ is our first project.
How did you gather the cast for Elegies?
We worked out the casting for the show; the type of character for each role, vocal ranges, and look. We already had Liz in the show but needed another 11 cast members. We posted an audition call on a few websites and got a great response. We had nearly 100 people apply and had to get them down to 40 to see on our audition day. There were some incredibly talented people auditioning for us, so the decision was not easy. Finally (after much talking and a few drinks) we chose 11 people and had our dream cast.
Why is Elegies important to you?
There is a lot of stigma to do with AIDS that is attached to the gay scene. And as a gay man myself I think this is wrong an unnecessary, of course the disease does affect a lot of gay men, but it also affects a lot of other people. I think we need to remove the stigma and help and support the people living with the disease not judge them. That is what Elegies is about, it shows that this disease isn’t picky and anybody can contract it, through no fault of their own. I think it is an important this to learn that it is unearned, nobody deserves this and everyone needs support. AIDS is also still relevant today and people are still contracting it. It needs to be caught early so that treatment is still effective, and this show is a way of getting that message out there. Both that is still out there today and that we need to support everyone with it and remove the stigma.
How has the Kickstarter campaign gone and why did you choose to launch it?
Kickstarter is a great way of trying to fund creative projects, any one can look at our profile and video, if they like what we are doing they can back us. The backers also get rewards, from AIDS ribbons to a free ticket! We started it because the cost of the production is very high and needed extra money for rehearsal space, props and set. It has gone very well, people have been very generous and kind. Its great to know that people want to support fringe theatre, to keep it alive and to create awareness of AIDS and change the negative point of view surrounding it.
How does the production benefit the Terrence Higgins Trust?
We always knew we wanted to support the Terrence Higgins Trust. We are new to producing so haven’t got a huge budget, so we couldn’t promise them any money or profits. So we decided to support them and create awareness of the trust, mentioning them on all of our social media and posters. We also have a full page in the programme for them, so they can explain to the audience about the amazing work that they do. All money raised from programme sales will go straight to them.
What can the audience expect to see on the night?
A party!! The production is moving, sad, funny, but most of all it is a celebration of peoples lives. Its purpose is to show that people LIVE with AIDS not die with AIDS. There is a cast of really strong singers that will blow you away with their high notes, their emotion and their talent. Expect to see some great dancing, a protest, a gospel choir and some fantastic stories. An audience can feel so many emotions that will hopefully make them laugh, cry, smile and above all leave with a sense of joy.
The production sounds great and I cannot wait to get down to The White Bear Theatre this week to see the show. It would be great to also catch some of Vada’s angels, punks, and raging queens down there too!