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Tag: manchester

Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Sir Matthew Bourne first launched his company, New Adventures, in 2002, after many years of previous success with other works. He has won a whole host of awards and accolades, honouring his contribution to the dance and theatre world, including his knighthood in 2016.

Since 2008, New Adventures has been committed to nurturing and developing new talent, by the means of workshops and projects. Aimed at all ages, genders and abilities, these workshops are hosted to help inspire the next generation of performers and making them accessible for everyone. However, with the great success their production of Swan Lake has seen, with their all male corps de ballet of swans, they particularly help to inspire young males to follow dreams and shatter stereotypes! You can read more about the topic of encouraging boys and men in the dance world in a previous article here Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

We were lucky enough to ask one of the more recent New Adventures company members, Andrew Ashton, a few questions on the company, tour life and his background, as well as topics the production highlights.

DN. What is it like touring and being part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company?

AA. I feel much more connected to the cast and crew than I have with any other show as we are with each other for so much time, at work and also living together and sharing a lot of our free time as a company whilst touring to new cities. It is, however, very much like shows I have done through my training in terms of the etiquette of the rehearsal process, classes and general running of the show, so it feels very normal.
Rehearsal, note taking and general cleaning of choreography is extremely important to New Adventures and therefore, after each class, we have notes with either Matt, Pia our Resident Director or Glenn the Rehearsal Director. Following this, we will either rehearse aspects of the show for that day where someone might be doing a new track or we will spend a few hours revisiting sections in fine detail. We always have a laugh and enjoy ourselves while at the same time remaining focussed and professional and therefore we have a really good and respectful working environment that I feel shows on stage. So on a whole it’s very much what I expected it to be.

DN. How does it feel making your professional debut in something as high profile as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake?

AA. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that it’s a dream. However, whenever I was asked which show would be my dream job, I would always say Swan Lake. It’s not just the choreography of the show that makes it so beautiful to perform, but the camaraderie and deep connection that you feel with the fellow swans on stage. Each and every one of us gives our absolute all to every show because we just love and respect it so much. In every performance, I’m able to find something new about the show or about my movement and choreography that surprises me. So, it really is a dream to perform. I’m also very lucky in that I’ll be able to travel to countries and cities that I might have never gone to without this show. I’m always told how phenomenal the Japanese audiences are that I can’t wait!

DN. The production deals with very relevant topics such as oppression, mental health and sexual preferences, as well as creating gender fluid roles. How important do you think it is to portray these issues on stage theough dance?

AA. The stage, just like tv, radio and other art forms is a representation of our world and to me it is more than just entertainment. It’s a way in which we can communicate to huge to our audiences and by extension society about important matters that surround us outside of the theatre. I feel that this is one of the reasons why Swan Lake is so popular, because it’s main focus is the feeling of wanting to be loved and this is something each and every one of us can relate to on whatever spectrum. All these topics are things that our audiences feel and encounter on a daily basis. So, it’s therefore important to portray them and portray them in an honest and respectful way in order to convey the idea of acceptance that is crucial to the whole story line of Swan Lake.

DN. You knew from an early age you wanted to perform and be in the arts genre. Do you have any advice for young students who want to follow the same career path?

AA. My advice is always to just do the things that you love. Everybody has a different idea of what success is and if you let your idea of success be what everybody else thinks it should be then you will never be happy with your accomplishments. My other advice would be to always trust your teacher or mentor, as they may have been in exactly the same position as you and have years of experience on top of that. Eventually you will realise that what they have been telling you for years was right all along.

DN. Tell us about your background training with Laine Arts and how it prepared you.

AA. My training has meant that nothing really has daunted me or has come as a shock when coming straight into the company. I had a very varied training at Laine as we study Musical Theatre and so we’re constantly pushed and pulled between different disciplines and techniques. I feel that this has been extremely useful for Swan Lake as there are actually a lot of different styles within the show. There’s a lot of ballet technique required in Act 1, it’s quite jazz like in the Soho Bar Scene and of course the Swan Acts are very physical and contemporary. This along with my training in acting and musical theatre performance has meant that I felt very prepared to perform and most importantly tell the story through my movement.

DN. What would you say to anyone who was thinking about coming to see the show?

AA. Don’t just watch it once would be my advice! There is so much to see and because the emotion is so raw it’s different each time you watch it. We are lucky to be able to watch the show when we have a show off. I’m moved by it every time and I can’t count the number of times I’ve now seen it!

Sound advice Andrew! You can read my thoughts on the production in my previous article

New Adventures Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry until 1st December, with tickets still available, using this link https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/ Further details of tour locations can be found on the website New Adventures Swan Lake

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What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

Musical theatre is a tough genre to succeed in. You have to be equally proficient in all 3 styles – dancing, singing and acting – a triple threat. So imagine being hired in a show and having to memorize EVERY SINGLE ROLE! That’s the mammoth task undertaken by a ‘swing’.

Swings are absolutely vital to the smooth running of any theatre production. Not only do they help with prompting of lines, if, heaven forbid, someone forgets, but they are instantly on hand, ready to fill in for roles due to sickness, or any sort of absence. Sam Lathwood is the current swing and assistant dance captain for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Unlike other productions, at least half the cast are children, including the main part. We all know how quickly children can become ill, and you can’t do a show without the lead, so being a swing for Matilda the Musical is most certainly one of the most demanding roles. We spoke with Sam about his job, how he copes, his favourite role, and what it’s like working with the younger members of the cast!

DN. You’re the current assistant dance captain / swing for Matilda the Musical. How do remember all the choreography so well without actually being in the roles permanently?

SL. When we first started to learn the show back in January, it took a lot of staying behind after rehearsals and dancing in my living room to help solidify all of the information in my brain. I work both visually and practically to get the choreography into my muscle memory, and once the choreography has gone in, it’s all about recapping the information, referring back to notes/ maps of the routines and watching the show as much as I can (when I’m not already on stage performing) to help retain the information.

DN. Knowing all the roles so well, who is your favourite character in Matilda and why?

SL. I would say my favourite character in the show has to be Miss Trunchbull, she has some brilliant dialogue, she’s intimidating and dark yet comical and outrageous. She gets to perform a whole solo dance routine with a ribbon in an extremely difficult costume and fly over a vault in her Olympics uniform/skirt. What’s not to like!

DN. It’s a well-known saying that you should never work with animals or children! What’s it been like working so closely with the younger members of the cast of Matilda?

SL. I adore working with the children. They never fail to make you laugh and smile. Their work ethic is always second to none. This is the 5th show I’ve done which has had children in the cast and I find they bring such a unique and exciting energy to the theatre both onstage and offstage that you don’t always get on other shows. I always find that the work our children at Matilda do on stage every evening is very inspiring.

DN. You’ve worked in many musical theatre hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Elf the Musical to name a couple. How does Matilda differ to the others?

SL. Matilda actually has the same choreographer as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Peter Darling) so I started Matilda with an understanding of the way the choreography might work. But compared to other shows I’ve done, the storytelling in Matilda is very detailed, specific and plentiful. The show also has a very dark story throughout, unlike Charlie Bucket, Matilda doesn’t get her ‘golden ticket’ until the very end of her story.

DN. Which is the most challenging scene and choreography in Matilda to work on?

SL. I would have to say all of the gate choreography in ‘School Song’. It makes a lot of sense and flows nicely once you’ve got it, but it took many more rehearsals to get there. What I love about the number is that you still get that massive rush of adrenaline each time you dance on the gates.

DN. This year, Matilda celebrated its 30th year since first being published, and has since won many accolades, particularly with the musical adaptation. Where do you see yourself at 30?

SL. I’m in total denial that one day I’ll no longer be in my twenties that I haven’t even thought about being 30 yet! Hopefully I’ll be happy and dancing my 30 year old heart out.

DN. Lastly, a famous quote from Matilda is “somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world” If you could make 1 change, what would it be?

SL. My one change would be to somehow eliminate the huge amount of plastic that is contaminating our planet. I’m a huge fan of watching Blue Planet and it disappoints me that over 8 million tonnes of plastic and rubbish ends up in the ocean each year, come on humans!

Well said Sam.

 

Matilda the Musical is currently on stage at the Palace & Opera House Manchester until 24th November. Tickets are still available at ATG Tickets Palace Theatre , with an incredible special rate of only £5 for 16-25 year olds (terms and conditions apply) before it continues on it’s spell binding tour of the UK finishing August 2019! You can find more details of tour dates, locations and book tickets on the website here Matilda the Musical . Watch out for my review article of the production, and vlog from when I went backstage at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and got to nosey around the dressing rooms of the cast!

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