Workin Process: Freckles Interview

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Iris Theatre recently welcomed Freckles to St Paul’s Church for two showcases as part of our Workin Process events. Following an Edinburgh Fringe run which saw the production receive critical acclaim and a stupendous audience we were very excited to welcome Mel Lawman and the team to the church. Workin Process was established around 5 years ago with initial support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, to respond to the lack of development programmes for emerging writers in musical theatre. The programme today provides showcasing events, production surgeries and songwriting competitions to help facilitate the work of emerging musical theatre writers. Freckles has been our third Workin Process event for the year, after Running Mate in February and Scandinavian Hearts in April and we were incredibly impressed with the level of talent on and off stage.
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Writer and producer, Mel Lawman, graciously told us a bit about the show and her experience with Workin Process…

Freckles is all about a characterful foster child who challenges deep-rooted traditions within a tightly knit community in 1930’s South Devon. Where did the inspiration for all the plot, setting and characters come from?

Initially the central character of the feisty newcomer was inspired by Anne of Green Gables. However, I wanted to set a new story in 1930s Britain and explore themes of bullying, belonging, parenting and bravery. The backdrop is the glorious coastal landscape of South Devon with the iconic Burgh Island, at a time of changing attitudes and life-styles. I started with the song ‘Dare I?’ which is all about trusting in new beginnings and daring to hope for a better life. Fran Eddy is incisive, outspoken and courageous. She inspires others to change perceptions and address their fears. I wanted to create a family musical with humour, drama, exciting choreography and strong female characters. The music is fresh and vibrant with many songs that can stand alone and appeal to all ages. The themes are as relevant today as ever, and the reviews to date have proved this.

Has the show or your vision changed in any way since its previous performances in Edinburgh and Bath?

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe we put on a reduced and adapted version of Freckles called The Freckles Effect which ran at 1 hour 15 minutes. We also took a youth cast who played ‘adults’ and ‘kids’. It worked successfully in this format. FRECKLES is now a full show with deeper themes running through leading to the outbreak of the 2nd World War. I also added new threads to the story line, changed the name and nature of the central character and developed the theme of being a ‘foreigner’ who is both odd and perceptive. When given a chance, she can also be loving.

We were able to include more of the songs in the London production which was a great relief as they are all so popular. We cast very experienced adult performers in the adult roles. This added to the dynamics, the vision and richness of sound. The 1930’s feel and look remained, along with additional inventive choreography. Due to venue logistics there were fewer costume changes but still lots of 1930’s hats, coats and some period props. Our lighting designer made clever use of lights and colours to create ambience. We took advantage of the church venue for acoustics, especially in the choral version of ‘Dare We’ (‘Storm Thoughts’) and used the pulpit and aisle for dramatic effect.

 

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In your latest performance, how did you feel audiences responded to the show?

Audience response was overwhelmingly positive. Very young members of the audience remained engaged in the story, could be seen bopping to the music (at appropriate times) and were incredibly quiet in the tender moments. Regular theatre goers made favourable comparisons to West End shows, sensitive audience members were moved to tears by the emotional content and many were heard humming or singing FRECKLES songs. Two British Theatre critics enthused about the potential of the show and their feedback is most encouraging.

What does the future hold for Freckles, its talented writers and its wonderful cast and crew?

On June 11th a song from the show was a finalist in the Stiles and Drewe best new song from a musical award and was performed beautifully by Georgia Richardson (Stephen Sondheim student performer of the year finalist) on the Noel Coward Theatre stage. We are now considering options for a full London fringe run with orchestra. We are making a cast recording and a promotional video. The composer, Matt Finch and I will be reviewing all aspects of the show with the intention of bringing a further developed production to London. I have some twists to add to the plot, Fran Eddy is taking on a life of her own…and we could clearly see more scope for both suspense and humour. We are excited about the next phase for FRECKLES.

Have you got any ideas for more new musicals in the pipeline?

I am currently working on another project based on two critically acclaimed BBC radio plays. This musical is set in a “brilliantly imaginative evocation of a whole new universe” Gillian Reynolds (The Telegraph). Many lyrics have been penned for a diverse bunch of characters, one song recorded (‘Nefarious’) but many more in the pipe-line.

For more information about Workin Process and how you can get involved, take a look at our website.

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