Something for Everybody - Trinity Theatre's Festive Triple Bill
Roast dinners with all the trimmings, meeting up with friends and family, exchanging presents, watching tv and constantly reaching for ‘just one more’ chocolate; all things that one would associate with Christmas and on top of all that, many families consider a trip to the theatre to also be a tradition. And whilst pantomimes may be the go-to, many may be looking for something else.
Just off Mount Pleasant Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, stands the Trinity Theatre, a grand church turned community arts hub, and this year, this beautiful venue plays host to not one, not two, but three theatrical offerings, suited for a range of ages and a range of tastes.
'The New Musketeers' Trailer
A cast of nine performers play a range of roles across three productions; ‘The Aliens Who Saved Christmas’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘The New Musketeers’, jumping from one to the other throughout the festive period. There is a real sense here of there being something for everyone, from little ones getting to experience live theatre for what could be the first time, to those looking for a laugh with lots of comedy and old school slapstick and those who want something classically Christmassy.
The creative team for the three productions includes costume designs by Nicky Bunch, lighting by James Dean, musical direction and composition by Stephen Hyde, sound design by Edward Lewis and action and fight choreography by Marcello Marascalchi.
When asked about the importance of everyone being able to get something out of the Trinity festive Season, Winnie Southgate, (‘The Aliens Who Saved Christmas’ and ‘The New Musketeers’), said
‘Absolutely, theatre is intended for everyone and everyone deserves good theatre, however young, whatever their tastes, there should be something that feels accessible to you’.
Penned and directed by Southgate, ‘The Aliens Who Saved Christmas’ invites little ones in the audience to join Sniff and Splat (Winnie Southgate and Irfan Damani), two visiting aliens on a hapless but well-meaning mission to save Christmas.
‘The New Musketeers’ sees the famous Musketeers lost at sea and their servants left behind to finish their important mission. What follows is an adventure through London with schemes, sword fights and song. Two of the piece’s writers, Jack Michael Stacey, and Dannie Harris (who also penned the songs) star as new musketeers Mousqueton and Planchet respectively, with Jesse Ashby’s Grimault completing the trio. Matthew Howell, also part of the writing team plays Cardinal Richlieu, with Irfan Damani as King James, Hollie Anne Price as MiLady De Winter, Max Kinder as the Duke of Buckingham, Winnie Southgate as Doris and others and Will Taylor as Jack/Mike and Others.
Director Sean Turner, artistic director of Trinity Theatre completes the four-man writing team, also directing ‘Miracle on 34th Street’.
I was lucky enough to get to ask Jack Michael Stacey and Sean Turner about ‘The New Musketeers’ and the process of bringing it to the stage.
How does it feel to have ‘The New Musketeers’ up and running at Trinity?
Sean Turner – ‘I’m delighted to have the show on its feet. Three long years of development have been worth it! Audiences seem to be really connecting with the work and it’s a pleasure to watch’
Jack Michael Stacey – It feels great! We’ve been working on the play since 2019, so to finally have it come to life is brilliant. Everyone has worked so hard to make this beast of a show work, so hopefully it’s just the beginning’
With four on the writing team for ‘The New Musketeers’, what was the writing and rehearsal process like?
Sean Turner – Four is a difficult number. When you have a disagreement, there’s no deciding vote so we ended up in a few deadlocks! Most of the time though, it’s been pretty plain sailing, we all had the same goals going in to the process and we’re very respectful of each other’
Jack Michael Stacey – It was a long process, mainly online, but we were enough to have time during the pandemic to escape to the world of ‘The New Musketeers’ and write something that is really unique, and, hopefully, everyone can enjoy. There’s lots of different types of humour, there’s song and dance numbers, and there’s fish. Everyone likes fish’
Talking about the music featured in ‘The New Musketeers’, musical director Stephen Hyde said
‘The pace and timing of the production is one of the things that makes it so successful as a piece, and the actors being in control of guiding that rhythm is essential. Dannie’s music is so joyous and vibrant, and it comes alive when it feels a part of the action. It also gives a chance for our talented cast to showcase their wonderful instrumental skills’.
'Miracle on 34th Street' Trailer
In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, seven actors play every character in Lance Arthur Smith’s classic tale, with sound effects produced live on stage. Striped back to it's original core as a radio play, this production transport the audience to a forties radio studio. Jack Michael Stacey, Max Kinder, Matthew Howell, Hollie Anne Price, Dannie Harris, Jesse Ashby, and Will Taylor are joined by eleven-year-old Ellie Canning who plays the role of Susan Walker, performing with scripts in hand at vintage microphones. Together they bring the story of a little girl and a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus to life.
This year, Trinity has become a home for new writing, which is wonderful to see. Sean Turner and Winnie Southgate share their thoughts on the hope that people are looking to see something new this year, along with how that in the current climate, its vital that theatre remains accessible.
‘The climate out there is tough’ Turner states ‘but I don’t believe that we get through that by playing it safe. It’s more important now than ever before to champion new work and I am proud we’re part of that. It’s always important regardless of the crisis or what level of work. Theatre and the arts in general should be for everyone – access to it is a right, not a privilege’.
Southgate adds ‘Certainly after Covid, I think there’s been a big thirst for new work within the arts. Theatre has become quite inaccessible in some places with tickets costing as much as a week in Spain, but we still need it. The arts get us through difficult periods of time, help us process things, and often hold a mirror up to us, encouraging us to reflect on the world we live in. This, and the fact that we just need a jolly good time’.
So, what is it like to put on three shows in one venue, sometimes on the same day? With set changes, character switch overs and everything in between.
Irfan Damani, who stars in both ‘The New Musketeers’ and ‘The Aliens Who Saved Christmas’ said
‘Fun but challenging. Wearing different hats with different goals is difficult, but fun. Even better because both characters are very different so I can play with both without it becoming repetitive’
'The Aliens Who Saved Christmas' Trailer
'Initially I thought it was going to be properly tricky, but it’s been so much fun’ Max Kinder, cast member of ‘The New Musketeers’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, states ‘The characters and shows are so different that, after all the rehearsals, each feels like its own separate entity. The New Musketeers feels so energetic and fast paced that all the characters are pulled along with it. Whilst Miracle on 34thStreet feels warm and cosy with characters that immediately put everything at ease. Personally, I’m really enjoying finding the difference between characters I’m getting to play and trying to understand what drives them has been a joy throughout the process’
Winnie Southgate adds ‘It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is even bigger – it’s also a lot of fun!’
Sean Turner comments on the quick turnaround between the running times of the three-show season
‘It’s great. Quite tiring but great. Sometimes we are doing all three shows in one day and that’s a pretty amazing feeling of achievement by 10pm!’.
With this triple bill of offerings for the festive season, the team at Trinity Theatre are well and truly putting themselves on the map and giving the gift of choice. Whether you are looking for something for the little ones, family entertainment or a Christmas classic, you won't be disappointed.
I was honoured to be able to review 'The New Musketeers' on behalf of West End Best Friend and you can read my review here https://www.westendbestfriend.co.uk/news/review-the-new-musketeers-trinity-theatre
'The New Musketeers' runs until January 2nd, 'Miracle on 34th Street' runs until December 29th and 'The Aliens Who Saved Christmas' runs until December 30th. Tickets can be booked through the Trinity Theatre website
I would like to thank Jack, Sean, Winnie, Irfan and Max for taking time out of their very busy schedule to answer my questions and thank everyone at Trinity for providing a simply festive feast of theatrical goodness.