August is a busy month theatre wise with all things fringe being at the forefront of many theatre-goers minds. Everyone raves about Edinburgh and I’m excited to pop up there for my Scottish fringe fix at the end of the month… but first, I’ll be checking out something a little close to home… Camden Fringe Festival!
One of my ‘must-sees’ at Camden Fringe is Making Waves by Daniel Cartwright & Tom Brassington, which receives it’s first fully staged production courtesy of The Hidden Theatre Company. The production will showcase upcoming musical theatre talent including company founders Abby Restall and Drou Constantinou, as well as Anna-Kate Golding, Emma Brown, Christopher Burgess, Jordan Turner, Michael Dahl Rasmussen and Taylor Rettke.
I got together with Abby and Drou to talk about The Hidden Theatre Company and Making Waves, with a little bit of Julie thrown in for good measure!
How did the Hidden Theatre Company start? What made you decide to set up your own company?
Drou: Me and Abs met on the MA Musical Theatre course at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and whilst there one of our tutors had underlined the importance of producing your own work “to keep the juices flowing in the dry spells”. To be fair though, what actually sparked off the company was when I broke my ankle (I fell down 4 steps) and I was going a little bit crazy with the extra time on my hands, so that’s when we set it up! At the time I thought it was the worst thing that could’ve to happened (as I had a dance job booked), but with how the company has developed and grown over the past year it is one of the best things to happen to me!
Abby: Last August I was acting as a nurse for my boyfriend & Drou (he was having a hernia operation and she’d broken her ankle) and while I was waiting for him to come out of surgery I was in the hospital waiting room and Drou & I started discussing the opportunities for a show and here we are!
What advice would you give to performers thinking of producing their own work?
Abby: It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. It’s fantastic to take control in this industry. As performers we spend so much time waiting and relying on other people to let us in the room or give us a job. Take the reins and do it yourself!!
Drou: Yeah, I pretty much agree with everything that Abs has said! It is a lot hard work AND sleepless nights, but I’m so glad that I started the company with one of my best friends! I feel that we balance each other out so I think if you can find another person who shares the same vision as you then definitely take advantage of that and make work happen! We also accept unsolicited scripts so if you do have a play or an idea for a piece that you want to be produced, then feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe we can help to get the ball rolling… after all our ethos is to showcase hidden talent and work to be passionate about!
Tell us a bit more about “Making Waves”. Why have you chosen to produce this piece?
Abby: I did a showcase version of the show in my third year at university and loved the music. Two of my friends wrote it. One night, another one of my friends and I were drinking wine & eating cheese when we said that it had to be done again, then the company came along and we turned it into a reality!
Drou: I think the music and the stories kind of sell themselves, which when you come to see it you’ll understand. I think that some of Dan’s music is really catchy! Recently I’ve found myself humming a tune, getting confused as to what it is and then realising it’s one of the songs from Making Waves!
You’ve described Making Waves as a collaborative production, what has the rehearsal process involved?
Abby: While we have taken the lead in making the final decisions, the company have each played a big part in the development of the production. We have developed the narrative, created characters and re-ordered the songs. It’s going to be a fun show and We are very proud of everyone involved. Big thanks of course to the wonderful company of Making Waves who you can get to know more here!
Do you have a favourite song/moment in the show?
Abby: “Beyond the Hillside” (final song) is definitely my favourite number.
Drou: There are multiple funny moments in the show so this was a toughy but maybe the end of Gingers’ Lament or I can’t write love songs… (that technically isn’t a spoiler because it’s just the name of the songs!)
How do you manage to do the jobs of producer and performer at the same time?!
Abby: With lots of tea, chocolate and the occasional wine!! It’s full-on but we work well as a team and balance each other out. There are very few people I’d work with like this!
Drou: I think i’ve just conditioned myself to not need very much sleep as I also have a “day job” on top of being the coproducer/codirector/performer/marketingperson/admin/generaldogsbody OR maybe I just buy good covfefe!
Do you have any new plans for The Hidden Theatre Company in the pipeline?
Lots! There’s more scratch nights being planned and we are hoping to develop the workshop side of the company too. We are also in talks regarding an exciting spring production so watch this space!
As you know, I credit Julie Andrews as my hypothetical guru of musical theatre perfection… If you had to pick a guru or gurus from the world of theatre (real people or characters), who would you choose and why?
Abby: Difficult question- Argh. I honestly don’t know. I’m going to go with the entire original cast of Cats! I wanted to be Rumpleteaser when I was a kid. Perhaps I should have gone to dance school to fulfill that role or I’ll get famous and be Grizabella. I have no idea why they’re my chosen guru but cats just do whatever the hell they want. And I remember being amazed when I first saw the DVD.
Drou: Kate Winslet. For sure. (which Abby mocks me about as well as Robin Williams) I know Kate’s not “theatre” but I love her and the fact that she was told she wouldn’t go far (much like Meryl Streep) but I think that as an actress she doesn’t always play the same roles (again like Queen Streep) I think her role in The Reader was one of the most challenging roles i’ve ever seen her play and it was incredible!
What life lessons have musicals taught you?
Abby: When things don’t go to plan just sing and split leap your way through life.
Drou: I think if you’re the protagonist in your life (which you should be) and things aren’t going great you’ve probably not even made it to the interval point so keep going and soon you will shine!
Do you have any show tune (or other) lyrics that you live by?
Abby: Hasa Diga Eebowai! Maybe not translated literally but my daily life usually involves a good few f**k it’s and then we move on!
Drou: This was a tough one… but I think “sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty” because when I do let my hair down I go hard or go home!
If Julie Andrews was your agony aunt, what would you ask her?
Abby: Does putting your hand on your head, as per Doe A Deer, help you reach the high notes?
Drou: I’d be intrigued to see what she thinks of Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns or maybe ask her what her favourite role was and why? Orrrrr I’d just ask her for any general nuggets of advice, just because!
What are a few of your favourite things?
Abby: Tea, chocolate, dogs, cocktails, wine, sweets…
Drou: Brooklyn Bridge, Tea/Coffee, scented candles, acoustic covers of songs, Netflix, cheese, rum and any small furry animal (except for spiders because they’re gross)
If Mary Poppins measured you with her special tape measure, what would it say?!
Both: Drou & Abby are practically perfect in every single way!
How do you solve a problem (like Maria, or otherwise)?
Abby: Make a cup of tea
Drou: Get Abby to make me a cup of tea.
Now for a QUICK FIRE – WOULD YOU RATHER… ?
Fly a kite or climb a mountain?
Abby: Climb a mountain
Drou: Well I just came back from Italy where I trekked an Italian mountain twice with 34 10-11 year olds! So let’s go fly a kite.
Be thoroughly modern or practically perfect?
Abby: practically perfect
Drou: I am practically perfect so…
Dance all night or sit absobloominglutely still?
Abby & Drou: Dance all blooming night!
Feed the birds or put tuppence in your bank account?
Abby: Feed the birds
Drou: I don’t really like pigeons, so I think the tuppence in the bank account – though I don’t think it’s very much money. Unless of course I can feed ducks because they’re alright, but I understand if i’m not allowed to feed the ducks, because they’re not the same birds from the film/show.
Sew or run?
Jam and bread or lots of chocolate?
Abby: jam & bread
Drou: I thought I knew Abby… and then she goes and chooses jam and bread?! I obviously choose chocolate like any other normal human being would!
Talk of dreams or show me now?
Abby: talk of dreams
Drou: I can show you… my dreams.