10 May 2010

The Nero Show

Deeply immersed in the rehearsal period, the creators of The Nero Show – as well as members of the cast and crew – take some time to share their thoughts on this brand new musical spectacle. The Nero Show opens at Circa on 15 May and runs until 19 June.

PAUL JENDEN, Writer and Director
“Nero is a figure famous for his excess and cruelty, as well as for fiddling while Rome burned. While I was researching ROME I was interested to discover that some of this might not be true. I was particularly struck by the fact that for years people would bring flowers to his tomb and that Nero’s popularity with the general population survived long after his death.

This curious tension between fact and fiction started me thinking about political figures of our own times. Wondering about how Nero would have survived in our modern world led me to other iconic figures, particularly John F. Kennedy.

I am old enough to remember the death of JFK and how the shock was felt even in Wellington. I think Kirkcaldies even put up a memorial window display. And I realised that I was remembering another world, before we all became so used to tabloids, TV and political spin.

In the light of later revelations and discoveries, it is clear that things were not necessarily as innocent as we believed, and that the JFK legacy is as much a mix of myth and fact as Nero’s.

So I decided to set Nero’s story in 1963 and to give the characters some striking similarities to people that we might recognise.

As I was researching Kennedy I discovered that his election coincided with the new use of hand held movie cameras. The historical footage was not unlike modern tabloid TV and led to the idea of the show being based on a live TV broadcast, like Edward R. Murrow’s famous “Person to Person” show, on which the Kennedys actually appeared.

To add a further bit of fictitious spice to the mix, I wondered what might have happened had Nero come face to face with his contemporary, Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen. And of course, in 1963 she would have been the Queen of England...

This mixture of fact and fiction is the perfect script to send to Gareth Farr to set to music. Having three hit shows under our belts, we decided to set out into new territory and to embrace the world of 1963, but with an equal mix of historical fact and silly invention. So this is 1963 of Jenden and Farr, and anything can happen..."
Jason Chasland as Nero and Christine Cusiel as Agrippina.

"Having developed three musicals together, Paul and I have developed a fairly streamlined process for creating vocal music - and when we embarked on The Nero Show we thought we would try something a little different. Instead of a chronological approach to writing the music - i.e. write each song one by one, in order of their appearance in the show - we decided to look at the whole show at once, and put down a basic rhythmic skeleton of it all in one big workshop session. It was fascinating for me - in the previous three shows, I have tended to experience it as an audience member would - a slowly developing plot as I work my way through the songs. This time I felt as if I could see it from Paul's point of view from the word go - and had an insight into rhythmic ideas that he had built into the lyrics, which I could either use verbatim, or work against to create new rhythms. After this rhythmic stage was completed, the more solitary process of putting melodies and chord structures on top felt somehow more unified and organic, and I feel the result is possibly our most tightly woven work yet."

MICHAEL VINTEN, Musical Director
“Why did I say ‘yes’ to working with this crazy bunch of performers!? Again!? Because I secretly love it, not that I'd tell them that. I also wouldn't tell them it's because I think they're all incredibly talented, funny and just a little bit mad. What a life! We get paid for doing this?”

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford as Poppea.

“The cast amazes me every day with their wit and talents. I believe with this show especially, it takes a lot of research, discipline and intelligence to pull off the particular comedy and dramatic turn of the piece. Paul and the cast have created a wonderfully supportive rehearsal atmosphere, so I think as a cast we all feel safe and excited to try new things, going to extremes in order to create this unique show. There's a fine line between making a fool of yourself and brilliance. Hopefully in the end it's the latter! Ha ha!”

PAUL HARROP, Britannicus
“I am loving working on this production. To work seriously on a musical is a rare opportunity for an actor these days and you couldn't ask for a better or more challenging playground than the one provided by Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr.”

“To be in this Farr/Jenden production is truly amazing; the rehearsals are supportive, challenging and hilarious.

Every day Paul's script and vision is realised as life is breathed into the rehearsal space with props, set pieces and characters showing their faces more and more.

After just 3 weeks we did a run through with Gareth there for the first time. I was so nervous but it was wonderful hearing him laugh, clap and even shed a few tears as he heard for the first time the actual sounds of what he had imagined while composing for our voices.”

Jason Chasland as Nero and Emma Kinane as Boudicca

“I am in my fourth Jenden/Farr musical and they still blow my mind with their genius. Every song is amazing, beautiful, exquisite and then on top of that is the story: funny, moving and sometimes challenging. I feel privileged to be involved again.”

1 comment:

  1. If The Nero Show is anything like Paul Jenden's and Gareth Farr's past masterpieces, I can't wait to see it!