Titanic – Small theatre, Huge impact.

It seems like ages since I went to the theatre. It was actually only about a month ago but that’s a fair while for me! But yesterday I was back in London to see two more shows – the first I shall write about here as both deserve their own post.

I recently interviewed Nadim Naaman (if you didn’t see this you can read it here: http://wp.me/p2RIFK-3o ) who is appearing in the musical ‘Titanic’. Held at the Southwark Playhouse, this production is only on for a limited time but I am SO glad that I got to see it. The theatre itself is small but the audience is set around the stage on three sides so the action all happens in a central location and the view from all seats is excellent. For a production such as this (which would also work on a grand scale) it means that you really do feel involved in the show.

titanic

Of course, everyone knows the story of Titanic, the unsinkable ship, which sank during her maiden voyage. Not really a spoiler as this production is of course true to history and yes, she still sinks. What makes this special and so watchable despite knowing how it will end is the characterisation of all the passengers and crew. The audience is introduced to the sailors, porters, stokers and passengers individually, each with their own stories and reasons for travelling.

The ensemble are fantastically strong and the harmonies and power in all of their numbers is immense. The score is beautiful – from the excitement of this huge creation to the panic and finally sadness of her loss the essence is captured perfectly. All cast members get a chance for a solo  which is a lovely touch as each deserves to be heard and the talent of the company is plain to see. Opening with Mr Ismay (Simon Green), owner of the Titanic, marvelling about human’s advances in engineering followed by the ensemble arriving, boarding and finally setting sail this production captivates from the outset.

Clever use of the stage ensures that no matter where you are sitting, you still get a view of every person on stage, there is plenty of movement and the direction and choreography has been well thought out. The space is used to its maximum potential with an upper level used as the bridge or a different deck and a movable staircase also used to it’s full scope to portray different decks or the lookout. It is certainly very obvious who is where at any one time.

It is almost impossible to write about individual performances due to the nature of the casting but Green’s Ismay certainly makes you dislike him as intensely as Barrett (played by James Austen Murray) makes you like him. The passengers are all extremely amiable and relatable folk – the rather irritating yet comical Alice Beane (Celia Graham) who is obsessed with the first class travellers and her long suffering husband Edgar (Oliver Hemborough). Kate McGowan (Victoria Serra) has a particularly endearing relationship with Jim Farrell (Shane McDaid) and the two other Irish Kates – played by Grace Eccle and Scarlett Courtney are both sweet characters.  The relationship between Caroline Neville (Claire Marlowe) and Charles Clarke (Nadim Naaman) is a rather more difficult one, though the love between them is plain to see. My favourite and, for me the most moving, were elderly couple Isidor and Ida Straus (Dudley Rogers and Judith Street) as their love has spanned forty years and never wained.

Mr Andrews, the ship’s builder (Greg Castiglioni) is convincing and easy to empathise with as is Captain Smith (Philip Rham). Backed by his masters Murdoch (Sion Lloyd) and Lightoller (Dominic Brewer) along with other crew members Etches (James Hume), Bride (Matthew Crowe), Fleet (Leo Miles) and Hartley (Jonathan David Dudley who also doubled as the bellboy) everyone had definite roles and positions and there was no weak link.

The class divide is always easy to see though the cast (apart from Ismay, Andrews, Captain and the masters) all double up and move with ease and fluidity from role to role, sometimes changing class as well as character. The six strong band accompany the whole piece with flawless playing throughout and really help to add to the scenes, whether with incidental music or backing the ensemble. By the time you hear the iconic words – ‘Iceberg, right ahead’ the atmosphere is overwhelming and you are willing that this time, please, the tragedy does not occur.

I would imagine that attempting to recreate a sinking ship in the confines of a theatre is no easy feat, but Thom Sutherland has done an outstanding job. The tension and fear within the cast is painful to watch and you really feel as though you are there, losing the ones you love, as you watch their fate being played out. Use of ropes and slow motion simulate the lowering of the lifeboats, the ship upending and people and objects falling about. Lighting and sound effects contribute to the effect, as does a large movable piece of scenery.

In all this piece of theatre is unmissable. Maury Yeston’s score may not be as well known as the ‘story’ of the Titanic but it is truly an incredible piece of writing. I loved the way that the real facts of history along with genuine passengers on the Titanic are used to recreate the events of 101 years ago. If you only buy one ticket this year then please make it to this production as this absolutely deserves to be seen. Sadly I don’t think I will be able to make it back, but if I can then I’ll be there with bells on. Superb.

Titanic is on at the Southwark Playhouse from 26th July to 31 Aug 2013.

Buy tickets here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/titanic/

Keep dreaming,

Naomi  xx

 

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Nadim Naaman Answers….

   Hi everyone. Today’s post is a little interview that Nadim Naaman very kindly did for me. I hope that all my interviewees know how grateful I am to them for taking their time out to answer my questions. Nadim is a talented actor who has played a number of roles in his acting career, most recently the part of Anatoly in Chess. Here we discuss how he got into acting, his exciting new album and the forthcoming production where you can catch him doing what he does best.

1. Did you always want to be an actor?

It took me a while to realise this is what I wanted to do for a living. I remember choosing my A-Levels as a sixteen-year-old and being torn between sciences and the arts, so I ended up doing two of each to keep my options open. I was a chorister at school, so singing was always a part of my life, but the theatre wasn’t ever something I encountered until I played an Apostle in Jesus Christ Superstar. Ironically, Will Barratt, who I understudied in my first year at Phantom, and who is now a writing partner and good friend, played Jesus. I was fourteen at the time, and I suppose you could say that was the turning point, as it led to my choosing to do drama academically and practically. But as a teenager I was equally into many other things; it wasn’t until I got to university that I realised quite how much I loved performing. Until that stage it had always been a hobby – a brilliant one, but a hobby nonetheless. It got to the point where I was sacrificing my degree for the sake of being in plays and musicals. I fought back in my final year to get a 2:1, but I definitely prioritised performing and by that stage had accepted a place to train at the Royal Academy of Music. No regrets.

2. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing instead?

I suppose the two things that I still pursue alongside acting – writing and teaching. I have always enjoyed teaching, particularly since I started as a private tutor a few years ago. I’ve met some great youngsters, and tracking their progress is so rewarding. I’ve also worked with large groups, which is a huge contrast to one-on-one teaching, but equally rewarding. I teach singing, drama and English language and literature. But it’s writing that really gets me going. Writing music, writing plays, writing articles. It’s something I still pursue – I contribute to theatre blogs and sites, and also write for a football magazine.


3. And how about in your spare time? What do you like to do to unwind?

I am a huge sports fan. Football, tennis, golf, cricket, running, skiing, the gym… I’ve always been an outdoors and active person, and will usually be found playing or watching sports. Even on a night out with friends, I’ll be trying to squeeze in some pool, darts, or my favourite, bowling. I love it. I am a huge Arsenal fan, and try to get to as many matches as possible. As I mentioned before, I have written for an Arsenal magazine called The Gooner for four years now. Sports aside, I’m a foodie, and love cooking (and eating).


4. You have been in a variety of roles over the last year, in productions such as Marguerite, Chess and of course Phantom Of The Opera. Do you have a favourite? If so, why?

That’s a tough one. Each production has given me something unique. Marguerite allowed me to meet Alain Boublil, and forced me to become a better pianist. Chess was a production I am deeply proud to have been a part of. The role of Anatoly was a gem, and to meet the likes of Sir Tim Rice and Elaine Paige, who were so supportive of us all… It was a very special few months with a wonderful company. But then Phantom is Phantom. I saw it as a student, and Ramin [Karimloo] was Raoul. I remember thinking that was a part I would love to do, and being blown away by the show as a whole. I must have seen it at least six or seven times by the time I auditioned for it, and will never forget the first time I saw John Owen-Jones sing the title role. It was epic. Fast forward eight or nine years, and he was back in the role, and was the Phantom for my first ever show as Raoul, belting out right at me during the final lair scene. He shook my hand at the curtain call, and that was when it hit me that I was in this show that I had loved for years, and was working with someone I had been wowed by as a teenager. It was a wonderful two years at Her Majesty’s – a brilliant theatre full of brilliant people.


5.You’re soon to perform in a new production of Titanic the Musical. What can you tell us about it/what can we expect?
It’s a gorgeous score, and as we all know, a tragic story. Not many people realise it won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score for Maury Yeston. It also came out before the James Cameron film in 1997. What’s nice in this version of the Titanic tale is that the focus is on the human beings aboard the ship. Because we all know the plot already, the musical can afford to speak about characters more than anything else. There are no Hollywood special effects, no stuntmen falling into water from a height of fifty feet, no CGI… Every character in the musical was actually a passenger or crew member on board the liner. You can Google them and see what they looked like and read their stories. The focus is on their relationships, why they are on the ship and why they are going to America. Titanic stories are often about the ship itself – this one is about the people on her, and characters that you may think you know from previous versions are explored in much more detail, with much more humanity. There’s no Jack and Rose, either.

6. If not already detailed, please tell us about the character(s) you play.
There will be lots of doubling up of roles in the show, as the company of twenty will be playing some fifty characters in total. My main focus is that of Charles Clarke. Charles was a journalist travelling in Second Class with his fiancée Lady Caroline Neville. There are underlying tensions in their relationship as she is the daughter of a Lord who does not approve of her relationship with the son of a grocer. They are drawn to America where class isn’t an issue.

7. If you could perform in any show, which would you choose and why?
I have to say Les Mis, because aside from Phantom it is the show that I first got to know and love, and the music will always give me goosebumps. But I also love Miss Saigon, West Side Story, and many of Sondheim’s shows, particularly Into The Woods, Sweeney Todd and Assassins. The most specific role I can think of is Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. It’s a great sing, and a real acting role. The dialogue and lyrics in Sunset are such a great mixture of gritty and witty, and it’s one of my favourite scores.

8. If different to the above do you have a dream role and/or a song from a show (male or female) that you would particularly like to sing?
Aside from those already mentioned, Fabrizzio in The Light In The Piazza. It’s one of the most breathtaking scores I’ve ever heard. You see, every ten seconds you remember yet another amazing piece.
With Nadim after the 'A Little Night Music' concert, 16/06/13

With Nadim after the ‘A Little Night Music’ concert, 16/06/13


9. So….your album. Very excited about this. Are you able to tell us any more about it? Any sneak peeks? 😉
I’ve been writing songs for many years now, but have mostly done nothing with them, or written things for other people to sing. The album is happening because of the encouragement of many close friends and colleagues who persuaded me I should do something with my own songs. It is called “We All Want The Same”, and it will be available from August 23rd. It features eleven songs that have been written over the last four or five years. One is a collaboration with Will Barratt, which we started during our Phantom days, almost forgot about, and then rediscovered a few months ago. All the songs tell their own story – some are about me, some are about other people, and some inspired by places, events and memories. The songs definitely have a musical theatre flavour, but are more pop/rock than show-tune. Hopefully you will hear a balance of what you already know of me, and a side you haven’t heard before.
Purchase and pre-order details will be available a month before the album is released. I’m sure that’ll also include some sneaky clips of what you can expect. I’ll also be doing some gigs to play some of the songs, and share some influences and the stories behind them. Twitter (@NadimNaaman) will be the most efficient way of getting all the information.

10. Do you play any instruments? If so are you playing on your album at all?
I play piano and guitar, and wrote all the songs on either of these two instruments. My producer, the amazing Joe Davison at Auburn Jam Music, is a much better pianist than I am, and so on the piano-led tracks I taught him the songs which he played in the studio. They definitely sound better as a result! The guitar parts are all me.

11. What has been the highlight of your career to date?
I would say my two years at Phantom, including the 25th celebrations at The Albert Hall, gave me so much. I met some of the most important people in my life during that job, and had over seventy shows as Raoul as Killian Donnelly spent many weeks on the Les Mis film. It was a wonderful time and feel very lucky to have experienced it. But the feeling of playing a part on the West End stage for the first time just edges it. I joined the Sound of Music at the Palladium at its first cast change, as first cover Rolf. After a wonderful year that taught me so much, I was offered the role and took over for the show’s final six months. To stand on that stage, not as an understudy, but knowing I had the chance to call the role my own… That was the moment it really hit me that I’d set out to be a performer and I had done it. I loved every minute.

12. Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you on stage? Or have you ever found yourself wanting to laugh about something? Can you tell us??
In the Sound of Music a six-year-old Gretl once walked behind the Von Trapp sofa mid-scene for a pee. She just couldn’t wait. The actor playing Franz and I lost it. I fell over in The Last Five Years in Edinburgh when singing “Shiksa Goddess”. The idea was that Jamie and Cathy had been on their first date and he had one too many beers. I obviously took this rather literally and was so in the moment that I missed a chair and hit the deck. Someone also happened to be recording the audio of that particular show which has done the rounds online. Cringe. Lastly, a favourite from Phantom. During the Don Juan rehearsal scene in Act Two, when Madame Giry and Carlotta stand off (“can you be certain of that?”), a brass player in the orchestra pit decided to clear his mouthpiece, but blew a little too much air into his instrument. The timing of it, the silence, what the actors were doing, the noise, the fact that every instrument in the pit is amplified by a mic… It was just like a very loud, very well-timed fart that echoed around Her Majesty’s. It was impossible on stage.

13. Describe yourself in three words?
Aware. Passionate. Grateful.  

14. What single item/ one thing couldn’t you live without?
A cliché, but music. I simply can’t get enough of it. I’m assuming my loved ones are a given, here. Music and my loved ones.

15. Is there anything else you would like to achieve within your career? Do you fancy doing TV/Film work etc?
I would love to see how many avenues of the performing industry I can explore. Aside from acting and writing, I did lots of directing throughout university and drama school, which I would love to revisit. I would love the opportunity to work in television and film. I would love to do more work as a musician, not necessarily as a singer or in musicals… Who knows what the future holds? I am an extremely ambitious person, but I am also a realist. All I can ask is that I am fortunate enough to carry on doing what I love and earn a living at the same time. Anything else is a bonus.

16. Do you ever suffer from nerves and if so, how do you deal with them?
I still get nervous on the first night of any show, but I think I learnt to turn those nerves into energy. If you have prepared well, and you know what you are doing, the feeling of nerves are most likely a combination of adrenalin and an anxiety to know what your audience will think of your performance. Trust in what your creative team have done, how the show works as a whole and just get out there and give it your all. That adrenalin, if channelled with focus, can take your performance to a new level. The challenge is then recreating that intensity over a long run – rediscovering those feelings and thoughts as if you’re walking on stage in the role for the first time.
Once again enormous thanks to Nadim for being so obliging. I hope that this interview will mean you will all rush out and book tickets to Titanic The Musical at Southwark Playhouse – the link to do this is here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/titanic/
And do all keep your eyes peeled for any announcements regarding the album. I think our ears are all going to be in for a treat.

Apologies for any formatting issues if you see any, my internet etc does not want to cooperate tonight. As ever thank you all for reading.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx