Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Annabelle Hollingdale: From Here

By | Published on Friday 25 June 2021

Coming up shortly at Chiswick Playhouse is the premiere of a brand new musical – ‘From Here’ – by the creative partnership of Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland.

The show takes a look at how we strive for love, marriage and family, and explores how arriving at those milestones might not always provide the results we expect.

To find out more about the production, I spoke to director Annabelle Hollingdale.

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘From Here’ is all about? Who are the central characters and where do their stories take us?
AH: With just four performers, ‘From Here’ follows multiple characters and narratives, whose stories are often musically interwoven. It asks the question of whether we are most driven by the notion of a fairy-tale ending, or if we are constantly seeking something new.

CM: What themes does the musical explore?
AH: With humanity at its core, ‘From Here’ deals with those significant moments and milestones in life that both define and unite us. Those such as ambition, first love, heartbreak and grief, to name but a few.

CM: What style of music can audiences expect?
AH: It’s contemporary musical theatre but with a hint of the cinematic. The journeys of these songs are so rich that it feels quite filmic in parts.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the writers behind the piece? Have they had continued involvement in the production?
AH: Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland make up the sensational writing duo Barrow & Ireland. From day one they have been creatively involved in all aspects of the production, whilst being incredibly open and trusting with surrendering their work to others.

Throughout rehearsals they have been busy scribbling away rewriting lyrics, jumping in as understudies and generally offering love and support. It’s been a real luxury having the writers present during the first staging of a new show, answering and raising questions and growing the piece together.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast?
AH: We have an intimate cast of four wonderful actors: Grace Mouat, Nicola Espallardo, Andrew Patrick-Walker and Aidan Harkins. They have been some of the most innovative, resilient and compassionate actors I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, and have truly enriched this new piece with their wealth of ingenuity.

CM: Can you tell us about the rest of your creative team? Who else is involved in bringing this to the stage?
AH: Our musical director is Ian Oakley; the producer is Dominic Gray of Red Piano Productions, who is producing in association with the Chiswick Playhouse; set and costume design is by Jess Staton; sound design by Tony Gayle; lighting design by Paul Lennox; and our stage manager is Grace Currie. The team of dreams!

CM: What’s it been like bringing together a production under pandemic restrictions?
AH: In truth, it’s been really tough at times. When we first programmed this show it was under the hope and understanding that restrictions would have been lifted and we could run at full capacity by this time. So we have felt the financial strain and disappointment of this.

Nevertheless, we have tried to remain positive, adaptable and have continued to ride the wave. I feel the large absence of live theatre this past year has just given what we do so much more joy and worth.

Our first full sing through was something truly special. The raw energy and connection in the room that day was palpable and I’m so grateful we will be able to share that with an audience of any capacity.

CM: Can we talk about you now? How did you come to be directing? Has this kind of career always been your aim and what path have you taken?
AH: I always knew that I wanted to be a director at some point. For a long time, however, I believed that this could only be achieved once I was in my fifties, with a wealth of knowledge and life experience behind me.

So I went to drama school and trained as an actor, and in short learnt all the ways how – in my opinion – not to direct, how not to treat actors, and about the kind of work that I didn’t necessarily want to make, and graduated feeling angry and despondent.

On reflection, however, this time was the most valuable of lessons and is what spurred me to truly question what I wanted to say as a director and how I would set about achieving this.

This was a few years back now and I remember I suddenly sensed a shift in the industry. Young, female creatives were finally being given more of a platform and I jumped on the opportunity.

I began writing to directors I admired, asking to just be in the room, and have just learnt and am continuing to learn on my feet.

CM: Where do you see yourself headed? What hopes and ambitions do you have for the future?
AH: I’d like to see myself continuing to develop and direct new musicals, and contributing to changing the landscape of what I believe British musical theatre can and should be. I would also love to be Artistic Director of a building one day.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
AH: At this strange and uncertain time I am not too sure. I’ve really loved honing my dramaturgical skills during this process, which has in turn sparked a concept for another new musical that I am now keen to spend some time developing. Watch this space!

‘From Here’ is on at Chiswick Playhouse from 1-31 Jul. For more information and to book tickets see the venue website here.

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Photo: Lucy Gray