Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Tania Azevedo: Hello Again

By | Published on Thursday 15 October 2015

If you’re a fan of musical theatre, you may be aware of the work of acclaimed US creator Michael John LaChiusa, and you will no doubt also have heard of Play Pen Productions, whose work in the UK is equally acclaimed, not least by the likes of us.


Bringing the two together seems like a huge recipe for success, so I was keen to find out more about this show from performer and director Tania Azevedo.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about ‘Hello Again’? What happens in it?
TA: ‘Hello Again’ is the musical Theatre adaptation of Schnitzler’s ‘La Ronde’. The play explores the relationships of ten different couples, and each successive scene takes one character from the previous scene and introduces another. By the play’s end, all the characters are somehow connected to one another. ‘Hello Again’ maintains the same structure of the play, but adds the element of time-travel, by having each scene taking place on a different decade of the 20th century. The scenes do not happen in chronological order and so it becomes an exciting slightly complex (if satisfying) puzzle for the audience to put together. But, essentially, the show is about sexual relations and human interactions.

CM: Does the piece have specific themes, or points it’s aiming to make?
TA: ‘Hello Again’ talks about what people do in bed, why they do it and how they use sex to achieve other things – intimacy, power, stability… It’s a true commentary on human sexual nature through the different decades. The show covers prostitution in the Edwardian era, the progression of female and homosexual rights, the 60’s sexual revolution, monogamy and marriage. Our aim is to talk openly and honestly about sex and the reasons why sexual encounters, and to engage and empower our audiences.

CM: What attracted you to this musical? What do you like about it, and what made you want to direct it?
TA: I’m a believer that, when the quality of the script matches the quality of the score, musical theatre becomes the most complete form of performing art. ‘Hello Again’ was created based on one of the most iconic plays of theatre history and composed by an artist that fully understands how to make music that, rather than just accompanying the story, really elevates the subtext behind every word and enhances the characters. The style of it and the prospect of staging a show where every single sexual encounter is musicalised (so there’s really no way of escaping the act itself) were the most appealing aspects of the show. I think it’s one of the most complete and well rounded pieces of musical theatre I’ve ever come across.

CM: Why did you feel the time was ripe for a revival?
TA: The show has only been professionally performed in the UK once before in 2004. At our core we are a team of artists who feel inspired to explore new approaches to the musical theatre genre. Compared to other performing arts including dance and ‘straight’ theatre, musical theatre productions have a tendency to play it safe therefore seeming less innovative or ground-breaking and, as a result, less able to excite and attract new audiences.

In the Summer 2014, Play Pen was delighted to be offered residency at the Blue Elephant Theatre giving us the opportunity to carry out R&D on ‘Hello Again’.

The result was a presentation of our vision for the overall production through the staging of key scenes from the musical, for which we received overwhelming positive feedback, convincing us that there is a keen interest both in seeing this show in full as well as a more general wish to see new pieces that take creative risks.

CM: Are you a fan of Michael John LaChiusa’s work generally?
TA: I’m definitely a huge fan. I was first introduced to his work with his adaptation of ‘The Wild Party’. I then went on to research his previous work and have been following his career with great interest since. What excited me about MJLC the most is his ability to create dramatically complex characters and his interest in exploring themes that aren’t usually the spotlight in the musical theatre genre. LaChiusa is hot right now and we’re proud to be championing that trend!

CM: Tell us about Play Pen productions – what does the company specialise in? How did your group come together?
TA: Play Pen was created by a group of musical theatre students graduating from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2012. Winning the Scottish Daily Mail Drama Award 2012 for our first original musical, ‘The Picture House’, launched us as a company and motivated us to continue creating outstanding and innovative musical theatre.

Following MTM nominations for Best New Musical and Best New Book for ‘The Picture House’, as well as a sold out run of the performance-art production ‘Oedipus Renewed’, Play Pen Productions has become increasingly dedicated to exploring the ways in which musical theatre can break away from its stereotypes; notably by integrating it with ground-breaking physical theatre performances and seeing how these two worlds can complement and indeed enhance one another

CM: Is this a one-off run for ‘Hello Again’ or are there plans to tour it further?
TA: We’re seeing a growing interest, specially within the musical theatre community in MJLC’s work and we believe this piece should be seen, and is very relevant in 2015. We’re a very international team and we’re currently approaching venues in the UK and internationally with the aim to tour ‘Hello Again’ further.

CM: What other plans do you have for the future? What’s in the pipeline?
TA: Play Pen is currently looking to develop another original musical for our next project. I’m personally also involved with Giant’s Theatre Company, who have a new play by Jennie Buckman, ‘Piece of Silk’, in pre-production for spring 2016. I’m also doing the dramaturgy for Chloe Aliyanni’s contemporary dance piece ‘Trivialis‘, and directing ‘Made Up’ by Zoe Thomas-Webb for ‘Women Redressed’ at the Arts Theatre.

‘Hello Again’ is on at the Hope Theatre from 20 Oct–7 Nov. See the venue website here for info and to book tickets.

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