Tag Archives: Interview

INTERVIEW: Star of Taskmaster, Derek and Afterlife, Kerry Godliman

Kerry Godliman is a woman who gets things done, as anybody who saw the comic win series seven of Taskmaster in 2018 knows. And now she is touring her new stand-up show, BOSH, the title of which is inspired by that experience.

She explains: “Greg Davies [Taskmaster’s presenter] used to say, ‘Here comes Godliman, boshing along’. I wouldn’t describe myself as intellectual but I am quite a rational person and don’t over-complicate things. I work out what’s useful and then crack on, and that seemed to work on the show.”

She stops and recalls with a laugh: “I certainly didn’t overthink it, and one time Greg said I was like Phil Mitchell, which wasn’t very complimentary.”

She describes BOSH: “It’s just me talking about the last year or two, observations I’ve made and experiences I’ve had. I suppose it’s essentially about being in your mid-forties and being a parent and trying to be a good human being.

“One of the themes of the show is about what it is like living in 2020, trying to manage modern life, my slight bewilderment at consumerism and trying to be ethical.”

Much of Godliman’s material comes from her own life – “a cartoonish, exaggerated version of it” or “sometimes a line might come from something I’ve said on Twitter and it’s caused a response that I find interesting”. But she’s not the kind of comic who listens to other people’s conversations in cafes or on buses for material. “Oh no, I don’t do that,” she says, laughing. “People can chat away with no fear of turning up in my show.”

Godliman admits she can be a bit of a worrier, and reads a lot of lifestyle books and articles, taking “positives from some and discarding others that are less helpful. The trick is in knowing which is which, of course”.

She reserves scorn for the modern profusion of parenting books, many of which she finds judgmental or downright unhelpful. “There used to be just one parenting book and now there are whole sections of bookshops with them.

“I talk a lot about parenting in the show, although it’s not specifically about my kids [a son and daughter aged 12 and nine] because they didn’t ask to be on stage.

“It’s more about my failings as a parent, of always trying to do the right thing. I read a lot of parenting books and I always seem to fall short of what they expect – I think for a lot of people parenting is just managing guilt to varying degrees.”

Aside from her stand-up, many will know Godliman through her extensive acting CV, including starring in two of Ricky Gervais’s comedy dramas, Derek and After Life. “I had met Ricky at gigs and had bit parts in his other shows before he asked me to appear in Derek,” she says.

“I’ve been lucky that I’ve always done both acting and comedy, and I love what I do so none of it is arduous or a pain. But the work-life balance is something I always have to keep an eye on, and I’m getting better at saying no to some work.”

That means Godliman can spend more time at home with her husband and children in south London. She’s a homebody nowadays, she says. “When I was younger I went travelling and was out all the time and did a lot of partying, but now I want to be at home as much as I can. I miss the kids and try not to be away for more than a couple of nights.”

She did have to be away for a few weeks last year [2019] to film Treadstone, a US television series based on the Jason Bourne films. She loved the experience.

“It was so out of my comfort zone,” she says, “but that was good. For a start I was playing an American, the first time I’d done that. It was a big, high-production-values, flashy US TV series. It was unlike anything else I have ever done.”

She adds drily: “Most parts I’ve played as an actress have involved a tabard, and here I was on set watching this amazing fight scene being put together. It was a like a dance – the choreography was extraordinary – and it was amazing being part of this world.

“I love acting because I get to work with other people, it’s storytelling and I can play a character I’ve never played before. But in a big Hollywood production like Treadstone you are a small cog in a very big machine. I had something like 20 recalls before I got the part and although I loved it, it made me grateful that I do stand-up as well.”

Stand-up brings different rewards, Godliman says, and she made her debut in the Royal Variety Show in December [2019]. “I enjoyed it. It’s a long day doing teching and so on but it’s fun. It’s always difficult to find some appropriate material, but I did some stuff about parenting because the Cambridges can relate to it. They seem nice people, it was a nice gig and it’s for a good charity.”

We get back to BOSH. “I’m bringing my kids up in the 21st century and we have to wrestle with social media and smart phones,” the comic says. “But I was brought up in the 20th century, when I was allowed to be bored, and kids now don’t get much opportunity for that. It feels now that you have to be engaging with your children all time, which is ludicrous.”

One of the ways she would like to engage more with her children, though, is camping, which they now think is boring. But Godliman loves it and is sad they have already outgrown it. “My parents used to take me and I suppose it’s in my bones,” she says. “I have a bizarre love of camping; it starts with concertina’d colanders and goes from there.”

Veronica Lee

Kerry Godliman’s new show  BOSH  reaches  The Stand, Glasgow  on  Wednesday, 25th March.

INTERVIEW: Stage star Kerry Ellis set for new Queen Machine Symphonic tour

She’s one of the UK’s biggest musical theatre stars – and has forged a career in music with the guidance and mentoring of Queen’s Brian May – and now Kerry Ellis is preparing for a brand-new show which will tour the UK in the spring.

The all-new show Queen Machine Symphonic featuring Kerry Ellis will see Queen’s greatest hits performed by leading European tribute band Queen Machine accompanied by the London Symphonic Rock Orchestra and conducted by Matthew Freeman, creating an unforgettable night of rock anthems.

Kerry Ellis is the UK’s leading lady of musical theatre, who originated the role of Meat, in Queen musical We Will Rock You. Since then, she’s forged a long-standing musical relationship and friendship with Queen guitarist Brian May, who describes the stage star as having “Britain’s most beautiful voice”.

Brian produced Kerry’s debut album Anthems, and they jointly released the follow up Golden Days in 2017, as well as extensively touring the UK and Europe together.

Queen Machine Symphonic received rave reviews when it premiered at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in August ahead of the tour in April 2020.

We caught up with Kerry for a chat about her long-standing relationship with Queen’s music and preparations for the Queen Machine Symphonic tour.

Photo Geoff Ford: Queen Machine Symphonic with Kerry Ellis, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, 31 August 2019

HOW DOES A MUSICAL THEATRE LEADING LADY END UP LINKED TO ONE OF THE GREATEST ROCK BANDS OF ALL TIME?

I met Brian May a long time ago. Before I auditioned for We Will Rock You I was in My Fair Lady and he ask me to audition for the show. I met him and Roger Taylor and worked with them closely, developing the musical. I have gone on to work with Brian for almost 15 years now, touring the UK and Europe, writing songs, putting albums together. I feel comfortable, grateful and special to be singing those songs in that environment, and that I have Brian’s blessing to do it.

SO, TELL US ABOUT QUEEN MACHINE SYMPHONIC…

There are orchestral versions of Queen’s music out there, their music has been translated for an orchestra, and people do concerts celebrating Queen – but this set up hasn’t been done before; an orchestra, the rock band and then me singing. I’m so excited about it.

It’s going to be really unusual. It’s going to be something quite special, and I can’t wait to get started. When the offer came along, it sounded interesting and like a unique experience, and I love singing these songs and in different environments, and with passionate groups of people – which I know the band and orchestra are.

HOW ARE PREPARATIONS GOING FOR THE SHOW?

It’s not easy to put all that together, a band and orchestra will naturally pull in different ways, so it’s challenging but really interesting as we get into rehearsals. And then there’s putting a rehearsal schedule together for everyone to come together… It’s a logistical nightmare, but there’s already a huge amount of work going into everyone’s preparations and pre-production and I can’t wait for it to come together.

Photo Geoff Ford: Queen Machine Symphonic with Kerry Ellis, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, 31 August 2019

YOU PLAYED A PREMIERE PERFORMANCE OF THE QUEEN MACHINE SYMPHONIC SHOW AT SCARBOROUGH OPEN AIR THEATRE IN THE SUMMER. HOW WAS THAT?

Open air shows are such a British thing; we like braving the elements and hoping for the best and this was no different.

Scarborough was a brilliant night, the fans loved it and we all had so much fun on stage. I’d been to Denmark for rehearsals with Queen Machine and had the chance to watch them perform there. To then join them, and have the wonderful musicians from the London Symphonic Rock Orchestra with us, and Matthew Freeman bringing it all together made for a very special night.

We were excited about the tour before doing the Scarborough show, and now we can’t wait to get into a full rehearsal programme ready to travel the UK with the show.

If you’re a fan of Queen’s music it’s going to be a real ‘must-see’.

YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF WORK WITH BRIAN MAY, HOW DOES HE FEEL ABOUT BANDS PAYING TRIBUTE TO QUEEN’S MUSIC? HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO HIM ABOUT THIS SHOW – AND WILL HE BE COMING ALONG TO THE TOUR?

When the Queen Machine Symphonic opportunity came up, I let Brian know about it and asked what he thought. The Queen Machine guys have played for one of the Freddie celebrations and are very much welcomed in the Queen family. They’re very well established, and they are huge in Europe.

Brian enjoys that people play their music still today and embraces that tribute bands are able to take it out there around the world. And that’s another reason why the music is so timeless – that so many people are still performing it and honouring Queen.

I hope Brian will be coming. He does come and support a lot of what I do, whatever he can get to, so I’m sure if the schedule permits he’ll be there, but it’s often a nightmare – with touring the world.

YOU’VE BEEN SINGING QUEEN’S SONGS FOR MANY YEARS NOW. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE?

The song that is very close to my heart is No One But You. I sang that in We Will Rock You way back when and have recorded it and performed it with Brian around the world. We did it on our tour and at one point he said to me ‘It’s your song now, love it and enjoy it’. I’ve just got so many connections with it now – and it works brilliantly with an orchestra, so I’m sure we’ll be creating new memories with it in this show and tour.

WERE YOU A FAN OF QUEEN’S MUSIC BEFORE WE WILL ROCK YOU CAME ALONG?

I grew up with it; my dad was a fan and played a lot of rock music, and I listened to bands and acts like Meat Loaf, Status Quo, Bon Jovi, but also artistes like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion. I was brought up with it but it became such a part of my life.

But really, everybody knows Queen’s music. The interesting thing today, is there’s a new generation of people interested in the music, because of the Bohemian Rhapsody film, with Queen touring with Adam Lambert, and the music is always used in films and adverts – you’re always hearing it.

I’m very proud that have a very deep connection with the music and the band and I’m very grateful for that. I always feel honoured and privileged to be doing their music with their blessing.

It’s been a big thing for me too; I always had a music career alongside musical theatre, but it probably wouldn’t have happened in the same way without that connection with Brian. He has influenced me in so many ways. Performing together on tour, and in the studio, he has educated me on putting an album together, something I had never done before. He’s been a kind of mentor to me and has helped me use the tools to make my own music.

BESIDES PREPARING FOR QUEEN MACHINE SYMPHONIC, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I’m working on some new music. I’ve not done an album of all originals before, so I’m working with writers again now. And I’m in talks with Brian again about touring or new music. A lot of concerts are in the diary throughout the summer, and I’m off to Japan again next year – I went earlier this year and it was magical, as well as the Queen Machine Symphonic tour.

Photo Geoff Ford: Queen Machine Symphonic with Kerry Ellis, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, 31 August 2019

ALONGSIDE WE WILL ROCK YOU, THE OTHER SHOW YOU’RE BEST KNOWN FOR IS WICKED; AND A FILM IS IN THE MAKING…

Wicked was a huge show for my career. It took me to Broadway – that was on my bucket list but I never thought I would actually get to do it. And to be the first British girl to play Elphaba, amazing. It has been a big part of my life, and it’s a show and role which resonates with fans all over the world, who go on supporting you for years after too; it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I’ll always be grateful to Stephen Schwartz and to director Joe Mantello for that opportunity; people still want me to sing that song [Defying Gravity] even though I left the show years ago.

I would love to get involved with the film! I’m sure it will be cast in America, and of course they are young girls at school – and I’ve just had a big birthday so maybe it’s not going to happen, but maybe a little cameo would be wonderful.

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com / www.ticketmaster.co.uk

QUEEN MACHINE SYMPHONIC FEATURING KERRY ELLIS – 2020 TOUR

April

Wed 15th EDINBURGH, Usher Hall

Thu 16th GLASGOW, Royal Concert Hall

Fri 17th DERBY, Derby Arena

Sun 19th CANTERBURY, The Marlowe Theatre

Tue 21st LONDON, Hammersmith Eventim Apollo

Wed 22nd CARDIFF, St David’s Hall

Thu 23rd NEWCASTLE, O2 City Hall

Sat 25th LEEDS, Leeds Arena

INTERVIEW: Scottish comedy legend Janey Godley

She’s been dubbed the ‘godmother of Scottish comedy’ and numbers Billy Connolly among her fans. Now, Janey Godley is set to spread her appeal across the nation as this quintessentially Glaswegian comic takes the Soup Pot Tour over the border and down south. “There will be a different demographic politically at these shows, but remember Nicola Sturgeon gets it in the neck from me as well. I will have to speak slower and make sure that it’s not all about just hating the Tories, though that will be difficult. But by and large, people who come to stand-up are open-minded people, they tend not to be died-in-the-wool Brexiteers who hate the Scottish.”

This tour has Janey wielding a variety of talents, as she delivers the kind of forthright stand-up which has earned her a strong reputation on the comedy circuit and a loyal band of followers. But she will also be displaying her skills at improv, as she stands by a screen and narrates adlibbed voiceovers of people (many of whom are today’s crop of politicians), giving them a heavy Scottish accent and inventing a story, many of which involve making soup for the community.

“The soup pot is very universal: if you’re in Australia, America, Brazil, France Germany or Alaska, and someone dies or gets married, people will make soup. The soup pot is the hub of the community. When somebody died near us when I was a kid, somebody would make the big soup pot so all the visitors had something warm to drink and eat. It’s part of us all being in it together. Of course, that was before people discovered they were gluten free and worried about being allergic to lentils.”

Janey first discovered that she could develop this new strand of her career on the night of the Scottish Independence vote in 2014. “I first did the voiceovers live at the Wild Cabaret club in Glasgow where the big screens were up. When the news came through and it was all looking a bit bleak, we turned the volume down and I started talking over the top of people. The audience loved it and I realised this was something I could do really well.”

 

She then poked fun online at the likes of Theresa May, Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon, replacing their talk of policy and elections with chat about big Isa and her soup pots. A recent piece she did on Kim Kardashian (largely mocking her for walking backwards) also went down spectacularly well, while clips of supermodels, Pathé newsreels and Fanny Craddock (the original celebrity chef) are given the Godley treatment. “I started off doing it for me, really. I liked the fact that I could give those politicians a whole new background persona and the idea that they might have these ordinary conversations; I love the idea of that normalcy which cuts through all that bulls**t. The ones that are the hardest to do are of Katie Hopkins, because the audience just boo like they’re at a pantomime.”

Since the voiceovers took off, an unusual trend started which reminded Janey of the halcyon days of Spitting Image when politicians would tune in avidly on a Sunday night, desperate to see if they had been captured in wax and caricatured in song. “MPs will say ‘are you going to do me?’ I’d like to do some international ones; I do Trump but I want to do Australian and Canadian politicians. There’s a lot of fodder to go on.”

When she started performing comedy in the mid-90s, there were very few female acts kicking about, but Janey Godley has now become a standard bearer in Scotland for young women who might fancy a career in stand-up. “I did Have I Got News For You and I was the first working-class Scottish female comic to do that: the first and last. There are girls from Glasgow who saw comedy and it would be Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, so they all thought ‘that’s not our job, that’s for Scottish men’. But when they see me and they see someone like Fern Brady, they think ‘yeah, that’s also a woman’s job.’”

Recently, Janey has ramped up her acting CV, appearing in Wild Rose (staring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo) about a young woman trying to make her way in the world of Country music, and has written and directed a short film entitled The Last Mermaid. She’s also had a one-woman play run Off-Broadway, and will be on TV screens soon playing the lawyer of Martin Compston’s character in Traces, a crime drama from an original idea by Val McDermid.

But for now, she’s enjoying making people laugh all over the country with both her no-holds barred stand-up and the unique nature of these new voiceovers. “The most important thing is that this has never been done before, no other comic in the world is doing this. I’ve been doing stand-up for over 20 years but it took a Tory called Theresa to make me famous.” Mrs May might now be virtually out of the public eye, but the moment has surely arrived for Janey Godley to take centre stage.

Contributed by Brian Donaldson

Images: Murdo Macleod

INTERVIEW: Foil Arms & Hog

Foil Arms and Hog will be heading to the  King’s Theatre, Glasgow on Sunday, 23rd February 2020.  Here they talk about their new show Swines.

Sean Finegan, as befits his status as the straight man in the Irish sketch group Foil Arms and Hog, is the spokesman for the trio off stage. It makes life easier for us to speak directly, he says, adding drily: “Otherwise I might say something witty and you’d attribute it to one of the other guys.”

We chat about their latest show, Swines, which is touring the UK after a sell-out season at the Edinburgh Fringe, but first Finegan explains how the trio met and got their distinctive name.

Finegan (Foil), Conor McKenna (Arms) and Sean Flanagan (Hog) were studying at University College Dublin (reading architecture, engineering and genetics respectively) 12 years ago, when they met through their shared love of performing.

“We were friends through the drama society but it was Sean Flanagan writing a play based on Father Ted that led to us forming the group,” says Finegan. “He was Dougal, I was Bishop Brennan and Conor was Father Ted. We had permission to tour round Ireland from [Father Ted’s creators] Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, and when the play finished we decided we should do a sketch show together.”

And the memorable name for the trio came out of good-humoured banter. “We came up with loads of naff names that punned on the word ‘sketch’ and rejected them. And then we were at a party one night and we were slagging each other off and came up with them.

“I’m the straight man, so I’m the foil; Conor is all arms and legs and very clumsy on stage; and Sean always hogs the limelight and steals all the laughs. They’re roles that we very easily fall into on stage.”

Finegan admits that some of the sketches they wrote and performed back then “we wouldn’t get away with now, they were quite insulting to all sorts of people”, but that over the years the humour has become more sophisticated.

That’s probably down to their work ethic; they write separately and then meet almost daily to develop the ideas. “Ideas get torn to shreds in the process and then we jump on to the idea and add more jokes and develop them. It sometimes takes months to nail a sketch.” Do they ever argue? “Well there are three of us, so it usually works out as two-to-one. No one has ever stormed out, put it that way,” Finegan laughs.

Finegan recalls when the group started out. “In the UK there’s a big sketch comedy scene but in Ireland that doesn’t exist. In our early days a lot of people would see three guys come on stage looking like Boyzone or something and they’d be instantly against us. But performing on the same bill with stand-up comics, we learnt so much about audience interaction. As any stand-up comic will tell you, you need to engage with the audience quickly and get them on your side.

“So we learnt pretty quickly and our comedy has become a sort of weird hybrid of sketch and messing with the crowd.”

But Foil Arms and Hog’s audience interaction is not cruel or humiliating. “I hope we’re not,” says Finegan, “because the intention is to bring everyone on board as it can be terrifying for some people [to be picked on]. But we love doing it because you never know what the audience may do, and we get a bit of a buzz from it. It’s the element that makes every show unique.”

In their second year at the Fringe they saw Edinburgh Comedy Awards winner Dr Brown (clown performer Phil Burgers). “I think we had thought clowning was the ‘honk honk’ kind of thing but then we realised that it’s about going with the flow. A couple of years later we attended one of his courses and it’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It was brilliant stuff.

“It helped us so much on stage, particularly when things go wrong, as we might get to a funnier place with those skills we learned.”

Foil Arms and Hog have a dedicated following that they have built up over 11 Edinburgh Fringe shows, and for the past six years have posted short films on YouTube – they have clocked up an astonishing one million hits and have nearly 950,000 followers on Facebook. They have a broad demographic and, as Finegan says: “When we look out into the audience and see people from eight to 80 it gives us such a buzz. We have people tell us after a show that their son or daughter has found us online and introduced them to our comedy, and they come to see us together. It’s great.”

Thanks to YouTube, the group’s reach is global – and sometimes unexpected, says Finegan. “We were worried that one recent sketch – about Irish people not really being able to speak Irish – may not necessarily appeal to non-Irish people. But then we got an email from a fan in Sri Lanka saying he loved it because, ‘We’re all forced to learn Tamil when we go to school, it’s exactly like this’.”

But Swines – like all Foil Arms and Hog’s live shows – doesn’t contain any sketches fans may have seen online. “Some people may think they’re going to see the YouTube videos performed live on stage, but absolutely not. We make a point of never performing the online videos live. What works online usually doesn’t work on stage. It’s a very different kind of comedy, and much more surreal live.”

They also have more songs in their shows now than when they started. “They crept in,” Finegan jokes. “My singing’s certainly improved – the lads were carrying me in the beginning – but Conor is a very good singer and Sean knows all about harmonies because he’s been in choirs and stuff. The songs help the flow of the show and we like doing them. Who knows, in 10 years’ time we may be topping the charts.”

Contributed by Veronica Lee

 

INTERVIEW: John Barrowman talks about his festive show coming to Glasgow this December

It’s the most FABULOUS time of the year – and entertainer extraordinaire John Barrowman will be celebrating the festive season with fans as he returns to the UK with a dazzling new Christmas tour.

The eight-date JOHN BARROWMAN – A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS  tour in November and December follows the success of his sell-out summer shows, celebrating his 30 years on stage and screen, and will coincide with the release of his new album of the same name.

Barrowman is a singer, actor, dancer, presenter, judge and author. Last year, UK audiences delighted in supporting him as he made the final three in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 2018. And he’s recently been announced as the new judge for ITV’s Dancing On Ice, having competed on the show’s first series in 2006.

Speaking about the tour and new album, John said: “I am so looking forward to starting everyone’s Christmas off with a festive bang.

“It’s been great to get back into the studio recording new Christmas tracks. I love this time of the year, but this is the first time I’ve put together a full album of Christmas and festive music for the most FABULOUS time of the year.

We caught up with John for a festive chat as he prepares for a truly FABULOUS Christmas…

What is Christmas all about to you?

“It’s about family, friends, celebrating the birth of a child, and basically coming together and enjoying people’s company. Everybody talks about presents, but my favourite time is Christmas morning after all the presents have been opened, having brunch, relaxing, playing games, all that stuff.

“Of course, I have to fit music into Christmas, and that starts on Christmas Eve. We have all the Christmas songs on, line up bottles of Champagne – from the most expensive to the cheapest… And by the time we get to the cheap ones, they all taste exactly the same anyway.”

Home is obviously Palm Springs, but you’re still very much attached to your Scottish roots. Where do you spend Christmas?

“Prior to last year, Christmas has always been spent at my cousin’s in Dunblaine, as when I’ve been working in panto, you only really get Christmas day off, so not much chance to travel too far. So last year was the first time in many years where I’ve actually been at home with family, in the States, for Christmas, and that’s where we’ll be this year too.”

Do we assume your house looks fabulous at Christmas?

“Absolutely. My house gets decorated to the hilt; pilots could mistake our house for a runway! That said, by the time I’ve actually finished the tour and other work I’ve got on, there’s only going to be about five days to do all the decorating and shopping.

“We have two trees. One is decorated in a Scottish-American-Welsh-British traditional style, recognising all the places I’ve lived in. The other is more glitzy and sparkly, with a dash of Star Wars – we have a Star Wars tree topper.

“All the trees outside have huge baubles on and we really go all out.”

Who will you spend Christmas with and what’s the plan?

“Mum and dad are just down the road, so they’ll be with us, and my aunt and uncle and Scott and mine’s best friends – just the eight of us.

“Everyone shares the jobs, although one day I’ve got a chef booked so no one will have to cook at all. But we’re a diverse family, so we really try to include lots of different elements.

“Mum will make shortbread, obviously – being Scottish, my aunt is from Belgium and she does the hors d’ouvres. Then it’s a traditional turkey dinner with everybody pitching in to help.

“One rule though, whoever cooks does not clean up – so I make sure I get really stuck into the cooking, and make a mess…”

Are you a gift giver, or receiver?

“I like to give more than receive, for sure. But I do absolutely love to receive gifts which are made personally, crafty gifts. There’s so much more heart to those things.”

What’s the best present you’ve ever had?

“I remember one year as a kid, all I wanted was a silver flute. I’d come down, opened all my presents from Santa and I didn’t get it. Mum and dad asked me to get something out of the drawer in the other room where they kept the silverware, and there among it all was this very particular flute.

“I like to make gift giving an event like that – it really adds to the occasion.”

The tour is coming to Glasgow, obviously, how could you not include your home city, especially at Christmas?

“It really will be the homecoming show, and home is so important at that time of year. The audiences really know what to expect, are always totally fabulous and get right behind me.

“I always go a little bit further there than anywhere else, as I know I can get away with it. It’ll be like an early Hogmanay.

And lastly, what can fans expect from John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas Tour? The summer tour was truly fabulous, and your mum, dad and Scott almost managed to steal the show on those dates… Will we be seeing them again?

“It’s going to be totally Christmassy… I’ve written a letter to Santa to see if ‘Mr and Mrs Claus’ are able to come along. Scott will be there again, on the merchandise stall, and on stage at some point. I hope to integrate mum and dad into it – which will be quite exciting, I hope.

“Like the summer shows, there will be music, stories and photos, but this time sharing all my favourite moments from Christmas through the years.”

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com

John Barrowman ‘A Fabulous Christmas’ is out 6th Dec on Decca Records

See JOHN BARROWMAN – A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS at:

  • SUN DEC 1 GLASGOW, SEC

INTERVIEW: Duncan James on stepping into Frank-N-Furter’s platforms this month in Glasgow

What made you say yes to playing Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?

It’s been a dream role of mine for a long time. I heard they were doing The Rocky Horror Show and I think Frank-N-Furter is one of the best roles you can play in musical theatre. It’s such an iconic role and the show has such a loyal following. It’s such a wonderfully written show and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play Frank?’ I rang my agent and said: ‘I hear they’re casting The Rocky Horror Show can you get me an audition?’ He did and so I went in, did the audition and got a recall. When I went back, I said to myself ‘I’m gonna get this’ and I did. I was really lucky because I fought off lots of competition from other well-known actors who were up for the part. I was like ‘No, no, no, this is my part!’ so when I got it, I was really proud of myself.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
©The Other Richard

What are most enjoying about playing Frank?

Everything! And of course, he has one of the best entrances in musical theatre. The reaction you get from his opening number Sweet Transvestite is amazing because it’s such a great song and you come out in a cloak, then take the cloak off to reveal his really out-there outfit. It’s a great moment.

Can you relate to him in any way?

For me it’s more about having fun rather than relatability. The part of Frank-N-Furter is so twisted and so dark and that’s such fun to play. I mean, he’s essentially a psychopathic doctor who wants to create a man for his own pleasure and he’ll kill whoever gets in his way. Coming from Hollyoaks where I got to play a serial killer I thought it’d be great to then go and play Frank – to explore that dark, twisted mind again of someone who is living on the edge, someone who isn’t afraid to do what he has to do to get what he wants. That kind of character is really fun to play.

Credit : Johan Persson

Presumably with this role you’re very comfortable in heels?

I am, yes, and I love getting dressed up every night, putting on the corset, the fishnets and heels. It’s such an empowering moment because when I walk out on that stage, I feel huge compared to the other cast members. I feel like I’m towering above everybody and instantly I get that sense of command that Frank has. [Laughs] And of course I’m not shy so I love strutting round. I’m really embracing it. Also, I have a bit of a fascination with drag queens and drag artists. I’ve become a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s like my number one guilty pleasure. I cannot miss an episode of any of RuPaul’s stuff.

Do you do much ad-libbing in response to the audience shout-outs?

There’s none of that from me. The only person who’s allowed to do that is The Narrator. They are the only ones who get to heckle back. I can do an eyebrow raise or a little smirk because, apart from The Narrator, Frank is the only one who’s allowed to acknowledge the audience.

What sort of shout-outs have you had so far?

There’s a lot of rude stuff and I got to do a scene in bed with Ben Adams from A1 when he was in the show. So it’s two boyband members in a bed, which is quite funny and prompts quite a few amusing shout-outs.

Why do you think The Rocky Horror Show has endured?

I think it’s down to the genius of Richard O’Brien. He created The Rocky Horror Show back in the 70s when it was really taboo to talk about certain subjects and having a man dressed up as a transvestite was unheard of. It was like ‘What on earth is this Tim Curry guy doing?’ It was banned in some countries because they thought it was completely wrong and it had a tough start because a lot of people didn’t know how to take it. A lot of people found it in bad taste but that was a sign of the times, of course. As attitudes towards sexuality, sex and transgender issues have changed we’ve become a lot more open-minded and liberal, haven’t we? It’s fantastic that we now embrace shows like The Rocky Horror Show. It’s great that this show in particular has stood the test of time. It seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting dressed up to come see it as well as knowing the story and shout-outs. The show gains more and more fans every time it goes out on tour.

When it comes to musical theatre, what have been your favourite roles?

I’m really lucky that I’ve gotten to do so many great shows. I loved playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. That’s a great role and I was lucky enough to play him again in the West End revival last year. I got to work with Alexandra Burke, who I adore, and we had great chemistry together. I loved playing Tick in Priscilla because it’s one of the most incredible, most liberating roles. Me having a child and being a gay man, I really related to the character. And The Rocky Horror Show is really good fun. It’s one of those shows where you get on stage every night and just have a really good time. It doesn’t feel like having to go to work and the audiences love it. The music is great, Frank’s words are so delicious and the way the story is told is just brilliant. I’m living my best life right now.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
©The Other Richard

Do you have any plans to work with Blue again?

Definitely. As long as people want to come see us there’ll always be Blue. We’re very lucky that we get to travel all over the world. We get to play sold-out arenas wherever we go and we get to have these amazing trips away. We were in Bahrain recently then we went to Singapore and Malaysia, which was wonderful – to be able to travel to these countries with my friends and get up on stage and sing songs that everybody knows.

When it comes to theatre, do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

This show consumes quite a lot of preparation with the make-up, the wig and everything. I have my little routine of doing my make-up, getting the wig put on, getting into the costume and then I’m on stage. There’s not a lot of time to think or prepare. After a show I take it all off then spend up to an hour at the stage door signing stuff and having pictures with everybody. There are always so many people at the stage door, which is lovely and I always want to make sure to give time to everybody. By the time I get home after that it’s like 11.30pm and I’m knackered.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on tour without?

My pillow goes everywhere with me. I cannot sleep in a hotel room without it because I can’t stand those horrible synthetic pillows you usually get. I have a proper old-school, feathered, heavy pillow which goes with me everywhere.

You’re bringing the show to the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Does it have any significance for you?

Me and the Blue boys performed in Glasgow when we were on tour with Wet Wet Wet and we were the first act to ever play in their brand-new arena, which was great. The audiences were great too. I do find that the further north you go the rowdier they get.

The Rocky Horror show is coming to the Kings Theatre August 12 – August 17 2019 starring Duncan James (Blue) and Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing).

INTERVIEW: Karen Gibson, the conductor/musical director of The Kingdom Choir who found global fame at Royal Wedding last year

Global audience of two billion watched The Kingdom Choir perform Stand By Me at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 25 years after she founded the choir, Karen and her singers are preparing for their first UK tour. The tour will visit 18 towns and cities, with the choir sharing the experience with young choirs in each destination. Karen answers some question ahead of their appearance in Glasgow on the 22nd of May.

Twelve months ago, Karen Gibson was travelling around London giving workshops in gospel music, when she received a phone call which was to change her life – and the lives of her closest friends, the members of The Kingdom Choir.

And in May, as HRH Prince Harry and the Duchess Of Sussex prepare to celebrate their first wedding anniversary – while adjusting to life as first-time parents – Karen and the choir will be embarking on their debut tour.

The Kingdom Choir’s stunning version of Stand By Me was a standout moment during the Royal wedding. The performance has been an internet sensation with more than 10 million views on YouTube.

A former IT worker and music teacher, Karen Gibson formed the choir 25 years ago, drawing together singers from in and around London, from various Christian traditions. For their first two years together, the choir didn’t even have a name – it was only an invite to appear on the BBC’s Songs Of Praise which saw Karen decide on The Kingdom Choir. Karen has worked around the world as a gospel choir conductor, travelling as far a-field as Japan, Nigeria and the USA.

2018 was a whirlwind year for the choir, with TV performances on shows such as Good Morning Britain and alongside Madness for the BBC1 New Year’s Eve concert, releasing their debut album Stand By Me after signing to Sony, and closing the Invictus Games in Sydney.

Now they’re preparing to take their musical message of ‘love, hope and inspiration’ on the road. We spoke to Karen Gibson about how life has changed and what’s next for the choir.



Looking back, to this time last year – can you believe everything that’s happened?

This time last year, I had absolutely no clue what was going to come. I was living my ordinary life; giving gospel workshops, teaching in schools, travelling to do those things. I was jumping on public transport, missing busses and trains, all just going about my life.

There were some lovely things going on – a few of us had just filmed with Call The Midwife, which had been a lot of fun… Little did they know what was going to then happen to the singers they booked.

It has been all change, and not without challenges, but it’s been a brilliant, wonderful blessing of a time.

So how did it all start……..

I had been told I would get a phone call, that it would be something big, but I had no clue at all what it was about. The person who initially told me said ‘I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s going to be big’…

That call didn’t come for a few days, and I’d put it out of my head. I was on a number 87 bus and a very posh voice came through on a call and said: “We would like to invite you to sing at the Royal Wedding”. I was so shocked I just said: “You’re joking.” They said absolutely nothing, so I knew it wasn’t a joke at all.

It was so exciting to call all the choir members, even though I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I just had to make sure they were available on that certain date, and that maybe the date might ring a bell with them. One gentleman said he wasn’t available, and yes, I’m pretty sure he kicked himself when it emerged what was happening.

Has the Royal Wedding experience changed the way The Kingdom Choir works?

Oh, yes, it definitely has. When we went into the studio [to record the album] I realised we couldn’t do what we were used to doing; presenting gospel in that very full-on, in-your-face way. God showed me that you can bless people without being in your face, and that stripping it back can be very meaningful – it must be, people are still talking about that performance all these months on.

I’ve realised we can reach more people by also take a different approach to our music. The couple’s [The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s] version of Stand By Me was the one which caused our website to crash, for our Instagram following to go from 700 to 35,000 in one weekend. That taught me something; maybe it’s not always about doing what you do in the way you do it. In faith terms, that’s a huge lesson.

How did you bring together the choir’s original approach with the new outlook to create the album?

We chose songs we had previously performed, like Something Inside So Strong, a self-penned song from one of the members Chases, Amazing Grace and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. But then we also looked to songs we like, not necessarily from the Pentecostal realm, but songs we found inspiring and that carried a positive message.

Golden, has the lyric “Living My Life Like It’s Golden”; I love that. And then something like To Make You Feel My Love, we turned it from being about a relationship love to a faith love.

Now you’re getting ready for a UK-wide tour. How is that going and what can people expect from the tour?

It’s all going very well and we are starting to put the show together. It’s going to feature songs from the album, and of course we’ve got to do Stand By Me. But it’s all very exciting.

You’re going to get a bit more of The Kingdom Choir that people have heard or seen on the TV or radio, but in a more raw state – freedom, and love, hope and inspiration, as the album says. We’re really looking forward to making the connection with people – to see the people who’ve been listening to us, and to introducing gospel to people who maybe hadn’t experienced it before. Our music is powerful, moving and inspiring, people come in with one mindset and leave with another.

The Kingdom Choir has selected local youth and children’s choirs to join them in each town or city they’re visiting on the tour. Are you looking forward to working with them?

The choirs we’ve chosen really are very, very good, and it’s lovely to know there are so many singing communities out there.

Singing is so good for our children – well, for everyone. From personal experience, I know what it can do for a person; it’s a skill for life, it builds confidence and it’s brilliant for them.

I’m very much looking forward to connecting with the children and I hope we will impact on them in some way, through the power of music. It’s going to be really special and I love the idea of us spreading that joy to these groups. A lot of the choir’s members have worked in schools, so we have that connection with young people – some of the choir’s members are people I taught in schools or worked with in youth choirs, so it goes back a long way.

A year on from where it all began, the tour will coincide with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first wedding anniversary, what happens next for The Kingdom Choir?

We just don’t know how it’s going to pan out – who could have predicted this last year? We are praying for longevity, we just want to impact the world for good. The album strap line is ‘Love Hope and Inspiration’, and I was thinking recently ‘hope’ is in pretty short supply right now, I feel the world is hungry for hope and good news – so we want to bring more of that about; that’s the long vision.

Tickets for the tour are on sale now from www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.cuffeandtaylor.com

KINGDOM CHOIR UK TOUR 2019 – FULL DATES

APR

Tue 30th SHEFFIELD, CITY HALL

MAY

Thu 2nd SOUTHEND, CLIFFS PAVILION

Sat 4th LEICESTER, DE MONTFORT HALL

Sun 5th NOTTINGHAM, ROYAL CONCERT HALL

Tue 7th MANCHESTER, BRIDGEWATER HALL

Wed 8th YORK, BARBICAN

Thu 9th GATESHEAD, SAGE

Fri 10th BIRMINGHAM, SYMPHONY HALL

Sun 12th IPSWICH, REGENT THEATRE

Mon 13th CAMBRIDGE, CORN EXCHANGE

Thu 16th BATH, THE FORUM

Sun 19th LONDON, ROYAL ALBERT HALL

Tue 21st LIVERPOOL, PHILHARMONIC HALL

Wed 22nd GLASGOW, THEATRE ROYAL

Thu 23rd EDINBURGH, USHER HALL

Mon 27th CANTERBURY, THE MARLOWE THEATRE

Tue 28th BOURNEMOUTH, PAVILION THEATRE

Thu 30th CARDIFF, ST DAVID’S HALL

 

INTERVIEW: Sara Pascoe talks about her new show LadsLadsLads

Award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog about her smash hit Edinburgh Fringe and sell-out West End show, LadsLadsLads.

• What is your show LadsLadsLads about? Why is it described as a ‘thinking person’s stag-do?

It’s sometimes hard to summarise what a show is about- but I wanted to give people the sense that it is fun and celebratory- but rather than about being about to get married- the exact opposite. Having fun, trying new things in a way of being braver and more self-reliant. Some of my shows in the past have had serious aspects, theories and research and this one is lighter. It’s like a party, except only I get to talk and you have to sit there watching me.

• Are you excited or daunted by going back on tour?

I love going on tour. I love our nation, I love rainy days up north and cold evenings by the seaside. It’s a luxury to get to travel for ones job and it’s still a novelty for me. Ask me again in twenty years!

• You’re touring from September to end of November. Do you see the show developing throughout the tour?

As my comedy is personal there are always updates, this show develops with recent escapades – my friends can persuade me to do anything by saying “you’ll get 5 minutes out of it”. That’s who I was recently tricked into watching a West Ham football match and seeing the film IT. They were both equally scary and I got exactly zero minutes out of them.

• Tell us about your new book Sex Power Money out next spring.

It’s about porn and sex work from a historical and evolutionary perspective. I am taking biology and the plasticity of human sexuality into account, and also laying out the whole spectrum of arguments in the debate about these aspects of our society. I’m also trying to explore power dynamics in sexual exchanges which are not as clearly defined as paying for sex- things like men paying for dinner, the abuse by powerful, rich men such as Weinstein and Trump. But with jokes as with my last book, Animal. Talking about serious, important stuff- but keeping it accessible and stimulating rather than hectoring.

• Did the experience of writing a book change the way you approach comedy?

Writing a book has changed my stand up, I think I’m funnier now because I can spend more time with ideas for the books, after a day’s writing doing a gig is a release. I only want to be silly, and it doesn’t feel as selfish if that makes sense? Comedy feels like a child’s job, you can’t believe you’re getting paid to do it. But there are huge things going on in the world and sometimes you feel a responsibility- because you’ve a mic in your hand. But now my responsible side who cares about the state of the world can go into book writing and stand up can be a distraction from that.

• Tell us about your recent Radio 4 series Modern Monkey where you explore our modern social world, did you enjoy the research involved?

Yes. I wish it had been more scientific and I could’ve done more research- but I kept being reminded it was supposed to be a comedy show and I had to write jokes about things. We recorded the show at several museums and I was so interested to visit and learn- especially the Foundling Museum- something I knew nothing about. Such a tragic thing- mothers giving away their children because they cannot afford to support them.

• Do you think the world of comedy has changed much since you started?

I think audiences are changing and that directly influences the acts. Comedy used to be a crueller place, and while there is still lots of that kind of stuff (and lots of people who love it) there is a lot more diversity now. And I hope that continues, live comedy is flourishing within an economic downturn and that is because the people making jokes are from a much wider spectrum. Their experiences are fresh and exciting and audiences want that. It’s not the individual cis, white, able bodied man’s fault that historically, comedy clubs were so reliant on stereotype and tropes, but only one type of person’s reality was being reflected and I’m glad that’s improving.

• Do you have a career highlight? Is there a moment you stopped and thought, wow, this is just incredible?

To write books is a massive privilege. Whenever I do a book signing, that for me is a “pinch myself” moment. Also selling out a West End run- those theatres are an absolute joy to play and it felt like a victory lap. I felt so much love for every person in the audience and wanted to kiss and hug everyone. I am a failed actor, didn’t get into drama school all of that malarkey. So getting to be in the West End was so special to me, a validation.

• What’s next for you following the tour?

I’d like to go do some stand up in America, and hopefully do some writing for TV. And another play. And I want to get a dog. And then more adventures so I can write another show

Sara Pascoe is touring LadsLadsLads Sunday 16th September – Wednesday 28th November 2018
http://www.sarapascoe.com

INTERVIEW: Scottish star Jayne McKenna talks The Band and coming home to Glasgow

Jayne McKenna trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has an enviable CV in theatre, TV, radio and film. She returns home to Glasgow to star in the much-anticipated The Band, when it come to The King’s in Glasgow from 26 June to 7 July 2018. I had a chance to catch up with Jayne before she arrives in town.

How does it feel coming home to Glasgow with such a hugely anticipated show?

Thrilling. I trained there so for me it’s full circle. And I’ve never played The Kings so that’s another treat.

Tell us a bit about your role in The Band.

It’s about a group of girls you meet when they’re young and then again as women, and about the changes and surprises life springs, so, while the younger me thinks her life is going to be all books and study, I turn out quite differently, but no spoilers.

What can the audience expect from the show?

Bring tissues, it gets emotional – laughing one minute and crying the next. And our musicians are stunning, not to mention the ‘boyband’ Five to Five – brilliant all-rounders a joy to work with.

Do you have any favourite moments, scenes or songs from the show that we should look out for?

The song ‘Get Ready For It’. I hadn’t heard it before and it’s become favourite. Incredibly uplifting.

The show has had an enviable amount of publicity, the main male roles being cast on the show Let It Shine, how have audiences received the production as it’s toured the country.

Tremendously. Every night on their feet. Apparently 62% of our audience have never been to the theatre before, and some have now seen it 14 times. People identify with the characters – they tell us at stage door all the time: “Thanks for being me up there”.

What’s life like on the road with a show like The Band?

Tough, especially as a mum. I’m very lucky I have my husband. FaceTiming home is a vital part of my day.

You have an impressive (and if I may say heavy weight) theatrical CV, what have been your favourite roles so far?

The show where I met my husband, of course. Playing Goneril in King Lear with Nicol Williamson is up there. We had an incredible connection as fellow Scots. I stayed in touch with him and even had the honour of singing jazz with his band.

Is there any Play/Musical you’d love to be in?

More Shakespeare would be nice: I’ve tuned into him more as I’ve got older. Not just the language, the thoughts, and being able to express things that in life only occur to us (if they do) in hindsight when the moment has passed! But more singing too: this is my first musical and I’m loving rocking it out!

Tell us a bit more about your career path from Glasgow to touring the country singing the songs of Take That to thousands of adoring fans.

I moved to London after a stint at The Lyceum with the late greats Kenny Ireland and Gerard Murphy and continued mainly in theatre. For example, Macbeth in the West End, the Peter Hall Company, National Theatre, but, TV and radio as well and even a Bollywood film in India. Now I live in Brighton with my family.

Finally, why should we come along to see the show?

Because it might change your life. The characters are real. Their journeys are your journeys and what they survive you can survive. It’s about friendship and looking forward. Plus it’s fabulously well written and produced and the music will ‘Take you back’… and the acting’s not bad either!

Catch Jayne in The Band at the King’s Theatre from 26 June to 7 July 2018

Images: Matt Crockett

INTERVIEW: Jonny Quinn on Snow Patrol’s Return

After seven years out in the pop wilderness, Snow Patrol are set to make triumphant return with their brand-new album, Wildness. Drummer Jonny Quinn talks chaos, the joy of live performance, and reveals just why it’s taken then so darn long.

In life, there are several milestones that swirl up an array of complex and conflicting emotions. Your first day at school, your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, and, if you’re a musician, the release of every single record throughout your career. “It’s a combination of trepidation, excitement and relief,” says Snow Patrol’s drummer Jonny Quinn, of the impending release of Wildness, the band’s seventh studio album.

Adding: “People as what you hope for the record, but the truth is that you just down know. It’s mostly just a relief to be back at it and playing gigs after five-and-a-half years. And so far, everyone seems to be really happy that we’re back.”

You might wonder why artists of such esteem would be feeling any doubts given their triumphant track record. This is the band whose major label debut, Final Straw, was certified five-time platinum in the UK and eventually sold over three million copies worldwide. Whose anthemic hits, Chasing Cars and Run, were the antidote to a generation’s glorious melancholy. Who have successfully held their own for over two decades in industry which has slowly been coming apart at the seams around them.

Inherently humble, it’s not surprising that the Northern Irish rockers haven’t ridden back into the music scene on a gold chariot fuelled by hype and braggadocio, however much of their introspection seems to be down to the sheer amount of time that has passed since Fallen Empires (their last album). Seven years in the music industry is a long time, particularly when those years have been some of the most turbulent for labels and artists alike. However, if there was ever a time the world needed a Snow Patrol album to galvanise and uplift our spirits, it’s now, and fortunately, Wildness is fits the bill perfectly.

Emotionally complex, intelligent and bruisingly honest, the album skimps on none of Lighbody’s soaring melodies. The lead single Don’t Give Up is a straightforward call-to-arms for the lost and weary, Life on Earth is an existential triumph, and the entire record vibrates with an earnest, open rawness. “‘Wildness’ being that the world feels wilder. There feels like there is more chaos than there used to be,” explains Quinn. “A lot of the songs are also about Gary’s own depression and frustration about not being able to write songs and that fear that hits everybody at some point, in a creative sense.”

For lead singer Lightbody, the last few years have been particularly brutal as his ongoing battle with alcohol abuse and depression manifested itself in crippling writers block. Quinn reveals that the band actually were in the studio around two years ago with most of the musical aspects of the album in place, but Lightbody simply couldn’t verbalise his experience. “Maybe he was trying to write songs without having a reason to, and he’s not that kind of writer. So, there was a big gap. But it had to be right; the songs couldn’t be forced,” concludes Quinn.

Certainly, Wildness wouldn’t be the record it is had Lighbody not dug so deep, for that kind of vulnerable grace and candour cannot be faked. In his own words, the 41-year-old frontman says it is the first record he has written where he didn’t just ‘ask a bunch of questions’, adding: “I actually tried to figure out why I was unhappy, why I feel out of place, why I’m afraid.”

Now fully recovered, Lighbody and co. are eager to release the record and crack on with what is arguably the most rewarding part of the process, touring. “That’s what we’ve been doing for 20 years and we’ve all missed that part of it. We like the studio but getting to go out and play all over the world is the most thrilling part,” says Quinn.

“We also put a lot into the live aspect of it, and I want people to walk out of shows feeling like it changed their life a little bit, and they forgot about everything that was bad that day… playing live and having that experience is really special.”

But before the band leave us to traverse the world, there is one burning question that needs to be asked: Are Snow Patrol back for good this time? “Yes,” replies Quinn emphatically. “We won’t have another seven-year break this time.”

SNOW PATROL RETURN WITH THEIR NEW ALBUM WILDNESS ON MAY 25TH VIA POLYDOR RECORDS

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