The Wipers Times – Ticket Offer!

Wt 3

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s The Wipers Times tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme.

The Wipers Times arrives at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday 31st October for one week only, direct from a record breaking West End run.

Best available seats for Tuesday-Thursday are only £19.50 using the promotional code ‘WIPERSOFFER‘ at the online check out or via the booking line 0844 871 3018

For tickets head to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

The Wipers Times – Ian Hislop & Nick Newman interview

WT1

By Matt Forrest

It’s hard to imagine that one of darkest days and bloodiest conflicts the world has ever known could lead to the creation of something as funny as The Wipers Times. Born from the trenches of the Somme this satirical swipe at army life was produced during the 1st World War and helped thousands of serving soldiers smile on whilst all around was going to hell.

However, upon till now little was known of ‘The Wipers’ until writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman 2013 BBC film about the magazine. Based on this film the two have adapted their script for the stage bringing The Wipers Times to the Manchester Opera House, as part of its current nationwide tour, following huge acclaim and sell-out shows on the West End.

Ahead of opening on 31st October,  Opening Night met up with Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to discuss the origins of the play, the writing process,  what the audience can expect, as well as the state of satire, Trump and Ian’s multitasking running the Private Eye office.

Opening Night (ON): How did the idea come about for the play?

Nick Newman: “Ian discovered this story about 15 years ago doing a documentary for Radio 4: we’re always on the lookout for new ideas and he came back with this trench newspaper he had discovered, which we knew nothing about, which is amazing because it looked and had the same feel of an early version of Private Eye.”

Ian Hislop: “I thought how do we not know this? I mean Nick and I are meant to know about our own industry, and I’m meant to know about the First World War, I’ve done programmes about it, but I’d never come across the story and I thought that this A) fantastic, and B) if no one knows this, this is for us. Here is a great real-life story that you don’t have to make anything up and a magazine which is so funny, we could take loads of it and put it on stage.

Nick: Because I come from a military background, I was familiar with squadron newspapers and things like that (Nick’s Father was a serving officer in RAF). All units have their own version of the Wipers Times, but they’re all full of in jokes, “its Pongo did this”, and full of jokes about people in the unit: whereas these are timeless jokes that work today as they did a hundred years ago.

ON: Would the Wipers Times have worked during more modern-day conflicts?

Ian: There is an army website called ARSE, amusingly Army Rumour Service, which is pretty funny, and the spirit of that still goes on today. But the thing about ‘Wipers’ was that it was so popular and probably the first time that anyone had seen that, which makes it so distinct.

Nick: It also turned on its head our experience of what First World War literature was all about: because up until we read ‘The Wipers Times’, you just thought that nobody laughed ever, there was no jokes. You can watch All Quiet on the Western Front, Journey’s End and it’s sombre, it’s about loss and futility. These chaps were living it on a day-to-day basis. ‘The Wipers’ was produced throughout the war as they were moving around France, and were in Flanders actually fighting, going ‘over the top’, surviving the Somme, being sent back to the Somme, going over the top at Passchendaele, they did this and still managed to keep their sense of humour and that is an amazing story in itself.

Did any of the copies make it back to the UK?

Ian: Yes. They started off producing just 100 and then producing more and more, as it became very popular on the front. And then copies started getting back home and there were reports that they featured in The Tatler of all papers, by 1918 someone had put together a collection to be published, so it’s all the more amazing that this has been forgotten. So yes they did make it back home.

ON: So when I was reading the synopsis for ‘The Wiper Times’, it reminded me of Ripping Yarns. Is that something that has influenced the writing process?

Ian: (Chuckles) Yes

Nick: We’re greatly influenced by everything we’ve seen. We did feel there was a real ‘pythonesque’ element to all of this. There’s a joke which we haven’t used but it could be a Spike Milligan joke: an officer sees a soldier digging holes in No Man’s Land and he thinks he’s sending signals to the Germans by aerial reconnaissance and he says to the soldier, “What the hell are you doing?” and the soldier says “I’m trying to save you money sir…the way I see it, the artillery fires a shell which costs £5 and all the shell does is make a bloody big hole. If I just make the bloody big hole, then they don’t have to fire the shell.” And that’s just a fantastic Spike Milligan joke.

Ian: So your answer is yes. Milligan, Goons, Python, there’s a lot of it in them. But I think it may well be because “they” did it first and that sort of British comic tradition, I think they’re firmly in it. We got Michael Palin to be in the film, which is about as good as it gets if you’re fans of all that, which we are.

WT2

ON: Being friends and writing partners for such a long time, do you argue over jokes etc?

Nick: We both share the same sense of humour so if one of us finds it funny, the chances are that both of us will. I don’t think we had any disagreements about what material from the Wipers Times should go in. We generated much more stuff than could possibly go in and left it to others to decide. There were odd snatches of the Flammen werfer sketch and things like that where we thought it was that or that; let somebody else decide. Luckily we have a good producer, a good director whose judgement we trust. So where it’s a question of we’re just undecided what would work better on stage…

Ian: But if we’ve agreed something when we write the script, we say this is what we think it should be, it’s because we’ve agreed it already so we can argue it; rather than argue for your own stuff. Look, we both think this is funny, there’s lots of stuff which will have fallen along the way. With either Nick going “well that’s not very funny”, or me going “you’re kidding, that’s pathetic!”So we edit quickly as we’re going. And that’s the benefit of old friends.

So it’s not a case of being precious?

Ian: No, maybe when we were nineteen!

Nick: I’ve worked in writing rooms where the star of the show will dissect your joke and publicly humiliate you in front of other people. Luckily we don’t do that with each other – it either hits, or it doesn’t!

Ian: And because Nick’s a cartoonist, I always say that he has a very strong visual sense, which helps hugely.

Nick: I do keep saying, what are we looking at? (Laughter) It’s tough to know, even with The Wipers, even though you’re restricted by the set and the locations, there are visual elements to it all the time and you have to think, how can we make this more interesting for an audience?

Ian: I mean, two people talking in a room, great, the dialogue’s great, what else? That’s the dimension that you mustn’t forget.

Wt 3

To create the right aesthetic, are there high production values for the play?

Nick: It’s astounded us. When we first wrote it, we imagined it’d be done on a bare stage and people would conjure up the world by their acting. But little did we know that our producers had other plans in mind and would bring in Dora, a brilliant production designer, Dora Schweitzer who has created this magical set which is trenches, dugout, it’s a sort of fantasy land beyond No Man’s Land. It is quite magical; there are stars in the sky, there are moving images and all kinds of things. The production values are much higher than we ever anticipated.

Ian: It’s rounded off with a soundscape, which makes you feel in the middle of it – the bombs are going off nearly the whole way through. As the audience, you just have to get used to that. It’s inescapable. And all that is great because it means you’re stuck like they were.

I suppose you want it to be as realistic as possible?

Nick: Yes. Steve Mayo, our sound engineer has created these enormous base amplifiers so that your seat shakes. You’re ear drums aren’t going to bleed, don’t worry about that! Hopefully you’ll get a sense of, and the reviews so far agree, what it might have been like in the trenches.

Ian, did you not fancy treading the boards after your acting debut?

Ian: I fancied it hugely, however unfortunately I’m very bad! Which is a drawback as an actor, so no!

Nick: Also Ian is far too old to be brutally honest! Mitford’s Granddad! He’s too old to even play a general!

Ian: Even the generals were in their forties! No I’m completely past it!

Nick: Our cast is about the right age. Most of them are straight out of drama school, so it’s their first job in their early twenties.

Ian: And you believe it. Our lads have spent a lot of time together on tour, they feel like a platoon.

Like a Pals Regiment?

Ian: Exactly that.

(ON) With all that is going on in the world at the moment and with you both being satirists: Is difficult to come up with material that isn’t dated an hour later?

Nick: There are various people saying that satire is dead because you can’t beat the real world: well we can jolly well try.

Ian: If the world gets more ridiculous then you have to try harder. I think the thing with someone like Trump , yes you can say he’s got stupid hair and he’s funny a colour, that’s a start. In the end he’s quite used to that, but if you can say your businesses all failed and the one thing you claim to be good at your absolutely useless at, that hurts, and there are things that do undermine him and wound him. I l love the fact that he tweets about Saturday Night Live, it’s not clever it’s not funny. Good they’ve got you.

British politics is pretty bonkers at the moment, but that’s not new either.

Nick: You always say that Juvenal was saying that satire is dead.

Ian: Yes, 1st century AD Roman satirist: well what can you do you exaggerate how ludicrous Rome is, anyway he made a perfectly good living out of it. We’re an old game.

(ON) I think more than ever it’s so important with all that’s going on in the world you need something to have a good laugh at I suppose. I don’t know if you saw about an hour ago someone handed Teresa May a P45 at the Tory party conference? With people doing stuff like that it must be quite difficult.

Ian: Yes someone landed her a perfectly good joke: I think we have done it. I think we did what would make me more popular… just resign. We had done the joke I don’t mind the public getting a bit late. (laughing)

ON: Finally it would be remissive if I didn’t mention this: My Girlfriend’s Dad is a subscriber to Private Eye. I don’t see him that often but whenever I meet up with him he always tells me that he once rang the Private Eye office because his subscription was late, and when he did he got you on the phone. He was made up. He’s dinned out on that story for years.

Nick: (Laughs) You didn’t say fuck off to your readers.

ON: He didn’t say that he said you were more than polite.

Ian: (Laughs) You see, wish him my best and that’s the sort of organisation we are. The editor deals with the subs, and we can’t afford staff.

Nick: Ian is the designer, chief journalist, sub writer.

ON: I don’t know how far back that goes, but he loves that story

Ian: That’s very funny, well say hello. Thank you.

ON: Well it’s a pleasure meeting you both and can’t wait to see the show.

Nick: On the 31st (October) we’re doing a Q and A come along to that if you’ve not bored of hearing us.

ON: I will do it would be my pleasure.

Directed Caroline Leslie, produced by Bob Benton and David Parfitt. The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House from the 31st October till 4th November.  In addition the play is touring the UK throughout the autumn.

Tickets for Manchester can be purchased here: www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2018

Logo

The Manchester Theatre Awards in association with Target Live will be held at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on Friday 9 March 2018, hosted once again by Manchester favourite, comedian and actor, Justin Moorhouse.

The annual awards seen by many as the most important theatrical awards outside of London has been an important fixture of the North West cultural calendar since it first began back in 1981 and is an opportunity to honour productions seen in Greater Manchester during 2017

From big receiving venues like The Lowry and the Palace Theatre and Opera House, via acclaimed producing houses such as HOME and the Royal Exchange to exciting fringe spaces like Hope Mill Theatre, over 20 awards categories recognise the exciting array of theatre on offer to audiences in the region and beyond.

In recent years the Awards have expanded to include a group of enthusiastic young critics who also choose an annual award from the city’s youth theatre productions.

Coronation Street and Broadchurch actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, herself a previous multiple MTA winner, paid tribute to the awards and the importance of the Greater Manchester theatre scene, saying: “I love the Manchester Theatre Awards. It’s always such a lovely coming together of our artistic community in the best city in the world, and is a celebration of all things theatrical here: From the emerging raw talent of the burgeoning fringe scene to the bobby dazzler spectaculars in our main houses and from the internationally acclaimed cultural highlights of MIF to a couple of people in a tiny space above a Salford pub.”

Kevin Bourke, chair of the Manchester Theatre Awards, said: “Helping to celebrate the tremendous, passionate and creative work in the Manchester theatre world is not only a huge honour and privilege for my colleagues and me, but also great fun and genuinely exciting – just like the shows we try to spotlight”.

Further information on the awards can be found at www.manchestertheatreawards.com and @MTAwards

 

The Band

Opening Night rating: *****

The Band Q

Tim Firth’s much anticipated new musical using the songs of Take That officially opened in Manchester last night after just over 2 weeks of previews and was without doubt the hottest ticket in town.

Taking us back to 1992 when for five 16 year old friends The Band is their absolute everything, they live, breathe, eat & sleep the music. Fast forward 25 years and life is somewhat different for our ladies as they attempt one last time to meet their teenage crushes. The winning of concert tickets to Prague soon becomes a journey of self-discover as they not only attempt to reconnect with each other but remember and realise the hopes and dreams of their 16 year old selves.

The Band N

Tim Firth once again delivers a truly wonderful script; his writing for the women in this show is emotional, informed and enormously relatable, he just gets women. Incredibly emotional in parts, each character feels entirely real and will undoubtedly strike a chord with its audience. Not only do you see your 16 year old self in the younger girls, their sass, their energy and love for each other but the recognisable elements in the lives of the women really make for some incredibly moving moments. Life has moved on and gone in unplanned directions but we soon realise their inner child was there all along, just waiting to be given the chance to run free again.

The Band I

The five young actresses playing the girls Faye Christall, Rachelle Diedericks, Katy Clayton, Lauren Jacobs and Sarah Kate Howarth are exceptional, witty, full of fun and incredibly lovable, their portrayal of being 16 and in love with a boy band is just perfect, throw in lots of cultural references and you are literally back standing outside the Apollo with them, plastic dummy round your neck with a train ticket in your hand you should have used an hour ago.

Superb direction from Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder ensures Jon Bausor’s creative set is used to its full potential, moving from High School corridors to airport runways seamlessly, cleverly making use of The Band to change scenes and move props without stalling the action. Take That’s music has been cleverly placed throughout the production; songs are used sensitively allowing the lyrics to be heard differently as well as to great comedic effect when life decisions need to be made. Just as we feel we might be heading down a slightly cheesy path a laugh is delivered and we realise that this clever production isn’t afraid to poke fun at its own jukebox genre.

The Band L

Winners of BBC’s Let It Shine, Five To Five made up of AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg and Yazdan Qafouri work incredibly hard throughout the show and deliver as well as some stunning vocals, incredibly slick choreography, creating the perfect soundtrack to this uplifting and vibrant production. They supply the soundtrack to our ladies lives from start to finish, proving to be the one thing they can rely on to be a constant in life, instantly offering a safe haven, taking them away from places of pain and sadness.

As the production progresses our main focus becomes the four ladies, 25 years older and reconnecting for the first time, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce and Jayne McKenna are faultless. Witty, full of suprises and entirely relatable, they capture the true essence of friendship, it’s not all plain sailing, just as life rarely is.

The Band P

The Band Musical is pure joy, uplifting, life-affirming, laugh out loud fun. Delivering a real message of friendship, love, rediscovery and the importance of being true to yourself. You’ll reminisce, reflect, laugh and cry through this very special show but most of all you’ll leave the theatre with a full heart and a contented soul, an absolute must-see.

On at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 30th September before beginning a national tour, tickets available here http://www.thebandmusical.com/

 

 

Behind the Scenes at The Band, Part 3

LtoR Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario So...

(Left to Right) Five To Five: Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon

We’ve met the lovely leading ladies behind the show, the genius that is director and choreographer Kim Gavin, so now we move on to the all important voices who bring all those familiar Take That songs we know and love to life!

AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon collectively known as Five To Five and winners of BBC1’s Let It Shine play gave us a little background on just how it feels to be involved in such an exciting and hugely anticipated production.

(Opening Night) ON: From winning on Let It Shine to now must have been quite a ride, how has it been for you guys?

AJ: An absolute whirlwind would be one way to describe it, it’s been completly mad, from the start to where we are now. The rehearsals have been full on and we’re just so glad to be involved in such an incredible show, putting it in front of an audience has just been amazing.

Yazdan: It’s been a long time coming, we’ve been so excited. We’ve been doing workshops, doing some of our own stuff and then into rehearsals. Now, after months of toiling away behind the scenes, we’re finally bringing it to an audience.

Sario: We were literally itching to get on stage, the workshops were great and we learnt so much but they feel like so long ago now.

AJ: We learnt something new each day. With Take That being producers on the show they came in a lot and mentored us which has been absolutely invaluable.

ON: Have you adopted a member of Take That in terms of your character?

Curtis: No, not really, although in the show we play the band, we play ourselves the band Five To Five. All of the qualities of Take That as individuals and as a group we take on board and we feel that singing their songs is part of their legacy and we absolutely have to do it justice and make sure we give every song what it deserves. So, although we take the qualities, we’re not Take That and we’re not trying to imitate them.

ON: We imagine your Mums must have been Take That fans, are they extremely excited about this?

Sario: My Mum’s already seen it three times and we’ve only done three shows!

AJ: We grew up with that music because our parents were fans, now we’re working with Take That, we’re singing their music in their musical, that’s beyond our wildest dreams and I think even what our parents dreamt for us!

ON: Do your Mums want to be roadies?

Nick: Yes! They’re really proud of us, I think for them it must be surreal to watch your child go off and do something so incredible.

ON: Thinking back to the night it was announced on BBC’s Let It Shine that you’d been chosen to be ‘The Band’, what were your initial feelings?

AJ: It was crazy, we’ve all watched talent shows and thought I want that to happen to me then when it does it’s literally indescribable, beyond our wildest dreams.

ON: We absolutely loved the way so many Take That songs are so brilliantly used in the story, we especially loved The Flood. You got a mid-performance standing ovation from some audience members during the song, how does that feel?

Sario: It’s great that we get to deliver the songs differently, with our different voices. People are so used to hearing Take That singing these songs and they sing them so well but hearing different voices offers a different experience. Knowing we have Take That’s stamp of approval makes it even more special.

ON: We’ve seen some tweets off Take That wishing you good luck, have they given you any advice?

Sario: “Don’t mess it up!”

Yazdan: Their mentoring has been invaluable, sharing the stage with them tonight was amazing.

(Take That surprised the boys AND the audience by joining them onstage for a special encore)

Just being in their company we’ve learnt so much.

Sario: The one thing they alway say is just enjoy it, go out there and just enjoy every minute of it. This is such a precious gift we have, to be able to perform to such amazing audiences every night is incredible, we just want to enjoy this unbelievable experience.

Curtis: It’s a cliche but we are ‘living the dream’.

ON: This tour is just starting, but afterwards will Five To Five continue?

AJ: Yes, absolutely. We’ve signed a three year management deal so obviously this is currently our priority but things will be bubbling away under the surface. We will be working with Take That and our management on new material which we’re all very excited about.

ON: Curtis, will you be writing the new material? 

Curtis: I think we’ll all be writing the songs, it all feels very exciting, like we’re at the start of a long journey for us as Five To Five. This really is just the start!

The Band runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 30th September 2017 before starting a UK tour.

For tickets and further information head to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-band/opera-house-manchester/

http://www.bandmusical.com/tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes at The Band, Part 2

Director Kim Gavin (front centre) with Take That and the cast of THE BAND, credit Matt Crockett

Director Kim Gavin (front centre) with Take That and the cast of THE BAND, credit Matt Crockett

Part two of our backstage at The Band sees Opening Night meet director and choreographer of the musical Kim Gavin.

One of the UK’s leading creative directors and choreographers Kim’s back catalogue includes artistic director of the Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies for London 2012, the man behind the Circus stadium tour for Take That and the producer of some of the biggest live events of recent years, including Concert For Diana in 2007.

We grabbed him for the lowdown on the challenges of bringing the music of Take That to the stage and making it work as a musical.

(Opening Night) ON: This is an incredible show Kim, how do you get it to that level?

(Kim Gavin) KG: I’ve worked with Take That for 25 years so I know their standard, we created the standards together. Tim (Firth) came up with a great concept and about a year ago he came and spoke to me and said he had this idea.  Essentially about all the people who loved Take That…and hopefully there’s girls in the audience going seeing it now and going… ‘Am I that person?..‘Am I Rachel, am I Claire’? It’s just a great night out and you know you are going to get value for money; you are going to get singing, dancing and just escape for the moment. This is about being 16 and then jumping those 25 years to where you’ve got a lot more responsibilities but how do you feel at that time. I think it resonates with young and old who go to see it.

ON: Was it a difficult decision to come on board with the show?

KG: When I was presented with the story and Tim said this is where I’m going with it, there was no hesitation – I said ‘I’m in’.

AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg & Curtis T Johns, credit Jay Brooks

‘The Band’ (Left to Right) AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon, Nick Carsberg & Curtis T Johns, credit Jay Brooks

ON:  Where do you start with bringing a show to the stage and making it a reality? Is it a long process?

KG: A surprisingly short amount of time really is needed when you are certain that you are going to go forward with it. You need to get everything in place and certainly from a touring perspective you need to get things in place much more in advance. Putting a show on you need a good 3 to 4 months to say right that’s what we are doing. You can look on paper and read the script in your own mind but when you go into a room at workshop stage with actors – it changes how you see it.  We did a really good workshop at the Manchester Apollo in March and we knew we were on a winner then.  It’s taken on quite a few changes since and we have learnt a lot from – in March we though we’re ready but we are not quite there yet in terms of the story, and what’s in it and how the production moves. Then we started rehearsals on the 17th July.

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams and The Band, credit Jay Brooks

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams and The Band, credit Jay Brooks

ON: There’s a huge back catalogue of Take That songs to choose from to put into the show…did you know straight away which ones you were going to use?

KG: It’s been weird for me doing this and placing the Take That songs in certain places during the show. I’m so used to working with the boys and I can second guess where they think things should be when we tour. If I’ve got a great idea for a number and the idea is fantastical and it should be maybe three quarters of the way in, we easily come up with a set list of what goes where at what time. We always close the Take That tours with Never Forget but for Never Forget to not close Act One in The Band and come before it – well that was quite hard for me to deal with in terms of it felt like we were throwing away a number, because we know how big it can be.  I guess with all storytelling techniques when you start listening to the lyrics with our story and when Tim explained why it’s so significant we have it there, it dictates it. But at first when you are not really immersed in events you think ‘is that the right choice’ then the further you go down the line you start to evolve the story and care about the characters you realise it could only go there.

ON: So what’s the plan for the show after the tour ends?

KG: We want a West End residency, that’s the ultimate. What’s fabulous about Take That is they make music for the people and I don’t mind if this show tours forever because it is about people from all walks of life and everyone will get it. I’m sure there will be some changes to be made if we did move to London as we built the show to ‘tour’ so there are restrictions on what we can do with it. If it went into the West End we would go for it a bit more as we would have the flexibility to be there for a long time without having to constantly move the set in and out.

http://www.thebandmusical.com

 

Behind the Scenes with the cast of The Band – Part 1

LtoR Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn credit ...

(Left to Right) Jayne McKenna, Emily Joyce, Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn

Last week we were privileged to get a sneak preview of new musical The Band, penned by Tim Firth and jam-packed with Take That tunes. It’s currently proving to be one of the hottest tickets in town and wowing audiences in Manchester, where it has had its UK premiere.

Press night isn’t until next week so we can’t give away any secrets until after that but we can tell you we are counting down the days until we see it again.

Opening Night was treated to meeting the stars of the show after the curtain fell and over the next few days we will be posting some of our interviews with the cast and production team, sharing some of the secrets to putting the musical together.

First up we chatted to a couple of the incredibly talented ladies at the forefront of The Band. Emily Joyce who plays grown up Heather and Jayne McKenna the grown up Zoe…

Emily Joyce as Heather, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire & Jayne McKenna as Zoe in rehearsals for The Band, credit Matt Crockett

Emily Joyce as Heather, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire & Jayne McKenna as Zoe in rehearsals for The Band, credit Matt Crockett

(Opening Night) ON: You all look like you are having a ball up there…

(Emily Joyce) EJ: We really are. I’ve not enjoyed anything like this for a long time!

ON: How excited are you about the potential of this show?

EJ: Very excited. A lot of people come expecting the story of Take That and it’s not. It’s about the women, friendship, tenderness and the boys (Five To Five) provide this beautiful soundtrack to their lives which is quite filmic. It’s wonderful taking the audience through the highs and lows and an absolute joy to play.

ON: Did you have any idea you were auditioning for The Band or was it all cloak and dagger at the start?

EJ: We hadn’t seen the script but were told it was off the back of a BBC TV programme and then when the programme came out (Let It Shine) we had already had second auditions by then and had to be recorded to sing…for Gary Barlow, Robbie and everyone else…no pressure there then!

ON: Did you get the parts you went for?

EJ: No

(Jayne McKenna) JM: We both went up for Heather or Zoe…

EJ: It was during my second interview that they said actually would you mind reading Heather…

JM: I’m a mother of three boys and I think they saw in me something that clicked with the character and interestingly then Tim (Firth) started to adapt the characters around us. I had actually wanted to go to Uni in real life but didn’t because I had kids, like Zoe.

EJ: And I sow and make clothes like my character Heather…

JM: It’s like the parts have been tailored made for us.

ON: Now you obviously play the girls 25 years on, what’s your relationship with the actresses who play the younger versions of you (as 16 year olds)?

EJ: We are quite protective over them

JM: I call them our mini-me’s. It’s great because they all embrace what they are doing. There was a day during the run throughs that they were so good we were all like ‘god we are gonna have to up our game here!’

LtoR Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario So...

(Left to Right) Five To Five: Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, AJ Bentley, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon

ON: What about the boys Five To Five? Obviously there was a lot of focus on them after winning Let It Shine…

JM: They are the hardest working boys and lovely people – what a find! Plus the first day we all rehearsed together Tim described the boys as a greek chorus and all of a sudden it made sense how they fit into the show. They are part of everything and not just singing at the back like you might think – they are integral to the story.

ON: Talking of the boys…if we switch to the real ones behind the show – aka Take That, who is your favourite member?

EJ: Now or then?

ON: It’s changed?

EJ: Back then I liked Mark, I still do he’s absolutely gorgeous but Howard now, he is lovely. I do think they get better with age.

(We are joined by Alison Fitzjohn who plays Claire)

AF: …Mark! I just love him, although I really did like Howard when he had his dreadlocks. I’m exactly the right age for my character and I absolutely loved Take That when I was growing up. Now meeting them has been unbelievably insane, I keep crying every now and then because I can’t quite believe it. At the end when we sing the lyrics ‘this is the life we’ve been given’ I’m like this really IS the life I’ve been given and it makes me very emotional to be standing there.

Runs at Manchesters’ Opera House until 30th September 2017

Tickets available: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-band/opera-house-manchester/

http://www.thebandmusical.com/tour