Cabaret Interview Caro Meets

House Of Blakewell: We Can Make You Happy

By | Published on Thursday 4 February 2016


House Of Blakewell are Harry Blake and Alice Keedwell, composer/songwriter and actor/singer respectively, and together an award winning cabaret duo who have won acclaim at venues and festivals across the land. Last summer, when they performed their show ‘We Can Make You Happy’ at the Edinburgh Fringe, my colleague Chris Cooke talked to them about the show.
When I heard they were taking the show to London’s Vault Festival this week, I thought perhaps you London types ought to read Chris’s interview, too; so here it is, with a few extra questions at the end from me.

CC: So, let’s start at the very start. How was the House Of Blakewell built?
Alice: Over quite a few years of friendship and collaborating on different theatre projects… Basically, I was secretly waiting for Harry to write me some songs.
Harry: She kept saying ‘Harry, I want to be your muse’.
Alice: I was very subtle. Eventually we decided to try performing a few and it went surprisingly well. Blakewell is a combination of both our names, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Harry: Like Kimye or Jedward.
Alice: And we liked the idea of inviting people into our house.

CC: And why a show about happiness?
Harry: I wanted to write a show about economics…
Alice: Songs about capitalism are surprisingly funny but eventually happiness and fulfilment became a theme. #100happydays was a big thing on Instagram, and it made us think about the pressure to be happy
Harry: …and whether or not happiness was something you could achieve as an abstract goal.
Alice: I was also planning a wedding and that threw up a lot of interesting things about the pressure of being perfectly happy

CC: Let’s be more specific, ie, what specific themes does the show cover?
Alice: Love, hope, dreams, friendship
Harry: Disappointment, loss, the futility of existence
Alice: It’s about two friends trying to find happiness in different ways. Alice believes she can achieve it with a positive attitude, some motivational quotes and an online mindfulness course.
Harry: Harry is trying to avoid disappointment by adopting German nihilist philosophy.

CC: What came first, the songs or the themes?
Alice: I’d say probably the themes with this show. Harry and I have developed how we work and now we try to discuss character, themes and structure before writing anything.
Harry: Sometimes I do come in with some random songs that don’t fit the narrative but they usually get cut in week two of rehearsals.
Alice: Like ‘The Battery Chicken Song’.
Harry: It’s a tragedy we’ve never shared that with a live audience
Alice: No it isn’t.

CC: How does a cabaret show compare to your other pursuits in music and theatre?
Harry: I’m a composer and sound designer for theatre and TV, so I spend a lot of time making moody soundscapes. Nevertheless, I like to think I bring a little bit of Broadway glamour to all my shows.
Alice: For me as a performer, it’s the most terrifying aspect of theatre I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. I learn a lot from every performance. It’s also amazing to create a show, as the opportunity to do that as an actor can be limited, though it does add more pressure!

CC: Does cabaret make you happier?
Alice: Yes, we love singing, dancing and trying to make people laugh. Interacting with a live audience is wonderful – when it works and people are happy that’s an amazing feeling.
Harry: I love cabaret because it’s an artform where the live element is absolutely essential. You can’t watch it at home on Netflix eating pizza.

CM: How did your run up in Edinburgh go? Have you made any changes to the show since then?
Harry: We had a fantastic time in Edinburgh! We had such a great response from audiences up there. But we’ve continued to work on the show, writing new jokes, developing character, changing lyrics – we can’t stop!
Alice: I’ve been working on a new top belt note, it’s now a semi tone higher. It’s very exciting.

CM: What made you decide to revive it for Vault Festival? How did you become involved with Vault?
Harry: We performed the first version of the show at Vault last year and since then we’ve done some major rewrites. We love the creative and damp atmosphere at VAULT so couldn’t resist the chance to come back and share the final version

CM: What’s next for the show? Is this the final outing, or will you be taking it on elsewhere?
Alice: We’re in the process of putting together a tour, we want to spread the happiness!
Harry: I will use it as an opportunity promote the work of Friedrich Nietzsche in studio theatres across the country.

CM: Do you have any new stuff in the pipeline?
Harry: We’re developing a musical based on the Norse Edda
Alice: As Harry’s muse I think it’s fitting that our next project contains gods, deities and heroines.
Harry: And trolls.

‘We Can Make You Happy’ is on at Vault Festival from 3-7 Feb. See this link here to book for all the dates and find more info.

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photo: Richard Davenport