A decade since Piramania! wowed the Edinburgh Fringe, its back! The Mumble had a wee blether with director, Alex Howarth, & producer, Holly Robin.
Hello Alex, so where are you both from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Alex: I live in London now, but am originally from Southport in the North West.
Hello Holly, can you tell us about your training?
Holly: In my 4 years under David Tyler’s direction at Running with Scissors Theatre Company I studied Laban and Stanislavski training methodologies. At Burnside Calisthenics and Dance Academy I was coached by some of the most innovative and successful women in the country, and trained alongside state champions. I went on to represent South Australia in the Senior National competition 2018.
What are the differences between the Adelaide & the Edinburgh Fringes?
Holly: The first difference that comes to mind would be size, Adelaide Fringe is the second largest Fringe Festival in the world but Edinburgh has almost double the shows participating. There are also more than double the amount of tickets sold every year in Edinburgh, and it excites me greatly to reach a whole new and extremely diverse audience base and share Piramania! with them. I also hear I should expect a higher likelihood of rain during the Edinburgh Fringe.
What is at about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
Alex: I was brought up going to see the big touring musicals in Liverpool and Manchester, as well as being in many local amateur productions, and have always loved the power music has to move people and tell a story.
‘We Live By the Sea’ by your company Patch of Blue was award-winningly successful, but you have something new for us this year. What did ‘We Live By The Sea’ teach you about your art?
Alex: That it is vital to take risks and be bold with the stories you want to tell. Over the two and a half years we did the play we were lucky enough to play to well over ten thousand people and give them a really important message, and I’m really proud of what we achieved.
Next year you will be working at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, what will you be doing & how did you get the gig?
Alex: Two years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a place on the Introduction to Directing placement the Opera House run, where I was able to observe rehearsals on a revival of Richard Eyre’s incredible production of La Traviata. I stayed in touch with them and at the beginning of next year they invited me to be Assistant Director on the revival in January 2020. I’m really looking forward to being back! I’m currently working on another opera- Offenbach’s Orpheus In the Underworld which is going to Salisbury Playhouse and Buxton Opera House.
Who are Sloshed Theatre & what is your role?
Holly: When Alex told me about this funny, piratey musical with a cast of ten he saw in Edinburgh almost a decade ago that he went on to direct at his university the year after, I knew we were sitting on something big here. Moving to the UK to work with Alex and with David Massingham to bring Piramania! back to life in a bigger realisation than ever before has proved a monumental task, but the reward has absolutely been just as great. We’re just at the beginning of this journey now but we have a fantastic crew assembled so I’m very much looking forward to everything coming together over the next short few months.
You are directing a show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
Alex: Piramania! is a brilliant original musical which originally played Edinburgh in 2011. I was there with a show and saw Piramania several times, and got to know the cast and crew, before putting it on at my university the following year. Since then I’ve stayed in touch with the writers Dave and Tim, who have always been keen to get it on again and give more people the opportunity to see it, and here we are! We’re already having a blast working on it- it’s absolutely hilarious, the music is really brilliant, and we’re incredibly excited to have it orchestrated for the first time by the amazing Mark Aspinall.
What is Ben Papworth’s contribution to the show?
Holly: As musical director of Piramania!, Ben is working closely with director Alex and orchestrator Mark Aspinall to not only develop the soundscape and musical depth in the show, work with the artists on their parts, but he will also be ‘at the helm of the ship’ if you will during performances; leading our band of pirates through accompaniment on Keys 1.
Can you tell us about the cast of Piromania?
Alex: We couldn’t be more chuffed with the brilliant pirate crew we’ve been able to assemble! We are have 10 extraordinary actor-musicians- 5 of whom are people I’ve handpicked from shows I’ve worked on in the past, and 5 of whom we found via auditioning. We have our first rehearsal period in a few weeks and can’t wait to get them all together for the first time- with hopefully some rum after rehearsals (for character research of course).
Its been almost ten years since Piromania wowed the Edinburgh Fringe, why do you think its day has come again?
Holly: I think the fun-loving and energetic tone of Piramania! combined with quick wit, and of course dancing pirates! is the exactly the balance of a lighthearted good time for adults audiences are searching for. That’s why fans fell in love with the show originally, and I know will be the emotional core to our festival experience this year.
How is Alex handling directing the show?
Holly: As always, like a pro. It will never cease to amaze me the creativity and vision he imparts on all projects he gives his time to. We are trying to ignore the word ‘constraints’ when talking about the scale of projects in Edinburgh, and bringing to life Alex’s ambitious and creative staging ideas.
You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
Alex: I honestly believe having a happy team of kind, giving people is 99% of what it takes to make a good show. If the cast are having fun then the audience will, and Piramania is a heck of a lot of fun.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Holly: Murder, betrayal, and incest on the high seas! Have a swig of rum with our perky panto crew, kick your night off the right way and join us for a laugh! And then I’d probably rally the pirates and start dancing for them, if that doesn’t reel ’em in what more could we do? Other than perhaps getting the crowd involved in the dancing too…