Category Archives: Previews

Interview: GMTG presents ‘The Phantom of the Opera’


The Phantom of the Opera, the well-loved musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, is set to hit our student shores next week. Its sweeping musical score, powerful operatic voices, and choreography, not to mention the costumes and masks, are sure to make this show unmissable. Elisha Owen spoke to Director Megan Probert, and Musical Director and Producer Josh Sood to find out more. 

1) For those who don’t know the show, give us a little synopsis.

The Phantom of the Opera is essentially one of the greatest love stories ever told. A masked figure lurks in the shadows of the Paris Opera House. As rehearsals for a new production are underway, new owners take over charge of the theatre surrounded by whispers of a Phantom of the Opera. Christine Daaé, a beautiful, impressionable chorus girl, emerges from the chorus, capturing the new manager’s attention – and Phantom’s heart – with her haunting voice. Determined that Christine will be his protegée, and desperate for her love, the Phantom devotes himself to nurturing her extraordinary talents. As devotion turns to obsession, the Phantom will risk everything for her love.

2) Tell us a bit about your role in Phantom of the Opera.

M: As Director, my job was to get the Phantom on its feet, and on the stage. Helped out by an incredible crew, and a wonderfully committed cast, it has been a real joy – the sense of collaboration and team spirit has really characterised this process.

J: I’ve acted as the Musical Director and Producer for Phantom, which (as MD) has mainly involved training the cast up to be able to sing the score, rehearsing the orchestra, but as producer has meant sorting out the financial, legal and administrative side of the production.


3) How did the audition process work? Were you ever worried you weren’t going to find your Christine and Phantom?

We held open auditions in the guild, so anyone could come and audition who1017740_1495764173985259_3422569402405726013_n fancied it. I don’t think we were ever worried about finding people to play the roles – with a show such as Phantom, it automatically draws a lot of people in as it has a huge following. It was a very exciting and nerve-wracking experience – I think we were as nervous as the auditionees! Phantom is an incredibly demanding show and there are very particular voice types that are required, so in this way it was quite daunting.

The roles of Christine and Phantom, probably the two most iconic roles in the show, are incredibly challenging in terms of vocal and acting ability. We were blown away by Andy and Abby’s auditions, and they both have taken to their roles so well. It’s really exciting to have a whole heap of music students involved in the production as music is so central to Phantom. We are very excited for everybody to hear the cast and orchestra, actually – a very, very talented bunch.

4) The musical is known for being a large-scale production. What have been the difficulties and joys of transferring it to a student stage?

It’s been great to work with the cast in recreating and reimagining iconic scenes. The biggest challenge has probably been creating the spectacle that Phantom is famous for – so elaborate sets, and so on. We’ve really stripped back this aspect as we want the focus to be on the beautiful music and on the characters. That being said, you can still expect a level of spectacle that we hope audiences will enjoy.

Also, the score is vocally very demanding, and it has taken a lot of rehearsal time and drilling to get right. We have a cast of about 40 people, so getting everyone working together is the first and most important thing to achieve. There are several special effects in the show which have caused a few issues here and there and have been a challenge to overcome, but we’re getting there with it all!

5) What has been the most fun part of the rehearsal process?

The most exciting and fun part of the rehearsal is the sitzprobe; after months of rehearsing with just a piano, to have a full 27 piece orchestra and full cast singing together is really amazing and gears everyone up for the final push before the show.

6) Why should people come to the show? What can they expect?

It’s The Phantom of the Opera! You can expect a stunning score, beautiful story, and a wonderful evening of entertainment. We have a truly amazing cast, orchestra and crew, who have worked incredibly hard over the past 3 months or so.  It’s not often that amateur productions of Phantom happen so I think people should make the most of the opportunity, as it will be a real spectacle. Please come and support us!

7) And lastly, the question on everyone’s lips – will there be a chandelier?

It wouldn’t be Phantom without the chandelier now would it…


The Phantom of the Opera will be running 13th-17th May 2014, in the Debating Hall, Guild of Students. 

Tickets can be purchased online at:

For more details and photos, like their Facebook page –

Infinity Stage Company Presents: ‘In Arabia We’d All Be Kings’ by Stephen Adly Guirgus

Stephen Adly Guirgus’s first play follows the patrons of a seedy pre-Giuliani Times Square bar in downtown New York (Hell’s Kitchen) and their struggle to cope with the changing climate of the city as the streets are cleaned up under Rudy Guiliani’s regime. Lenny is a recently released ex-con struggling to hold on to his ‘badman’ image and reputation while his girlfriend, Daisy, craves a “real” life with a “real” man and abandons him at the bar in pursuit of some cheap Chinese takeout. Also at the bar is Skank, a failed actor turned junkie, who is trying to outlast the rain storm and get a buyback from the missing Irish bartender. A permanent fixture at the bar is Sammy, an old, dying guilt-ridden drunk who exists somewhere between reality and the afterlife. Demaris, a seventeen-year-old gun-brandishing single mother, wants to learn to turn tricks. She enlists the aid of Chickie, Skank’s girlfriend, a young crackhead hooker who plays cards with the simple-minded day bartender Charlie. The owner of the bar is Jake. The place was his father’s before him, and after thirty years, he longs for the chance to get out of the sewer and reinvent a life in Florida. Unaware that their last piece of home is about to be pulled out from under them, the bar patrons struggle on. Their sense of humour, their misguided hopes and dreams, and their lack of self-pity are badges that are tattooed to their souls. They will all, before the end, demand and take the chance to face head on their complicated and sad truths.

In Arabia


Lenny – Nathan Hawthorne

Daisy – Emily Howard

Skank – Danny Hetherington

Sammy – Ben Firth

Miss Reyes – Emma Marchant

Demaris – Charis Jardim

Jake – Dan Burke

Chickie – Phoebe Brown

Charlie/Holy Roller – Calum Fraser

Greer – Ben Norris

Vic/Carroll – Nick Williams


Directors – Jack Fairley and Andy Baker

Producer – Rebekah Lucking

Assistant Producer – Katherine Grayson

DATES: (all performances begin at 19:30)

Friday 7th March /Saturday 8th March/ Sunday 9th March


Members – £4

Concessions -£5

Adult – £7

Freedom From Torture present: The Festive Freedom Fringe

The Freedom From Torture society at Birmingham is an up and coming society doing fantastic things all in the name of freedom, liberty and human rights. The society is only in its second year and is a fundraising-based charitable society that seeks to help people from all walks of life that have suffered horrendously and seek asylum in this country. The society is the only UK-based student society that represents a charity at student level in the UK. It works closely with West Midlands Freedom From Torture charity and all money raised is donated to them.

     When talking to some members of the society they said that they felt it was important to support the local centre. The society seeks to lift the stigma around people who are often dubbed ‘illegal immigrants’ and offer rehabilitation and counselling for the atrocities they have faced in their home countries.


     Freedom From Torture are putting on a fantastic event on Wednesday the 4th of December to help raise money for their cause. The Festive Freedom Fringe is much more than your average student event; held at the beautiful canal side venue ‘The Flapper’ it’s set to be a fun-filled festive event! In the wake of last year’s Fringe, that raised £300, this year is set to be bigger and better. The event will include a whopping five hours of entertainment, with everything from music to comedy and spoken word. There will even be an opportunity to browse some Christmas stalls and pick up the odd Crimbo present! A lot is on offer for the entry fee of just £4 (or £5 on the door) and knowing your money is going to such a worthy cause will add to the warm feeling of festive cheer, no doubt helped by the great drinks available throughout the night!


     The night will include varied and well-known acts, such as  singer song-writer Emma Crowder, who has a loyal YouTube following and who recently supported Gabrielle Aplin on her November 5th  gig at The Institute.  If heartfelt acoustic melodies aren’t your thing then fear not as also appearing on the line up are Vexxen a ‘riff-based thrash metal band with injections of metal-core and dashes of progressive’. Or, if you fancy a bit of alternative rock, then Blank Parody might be more your thing. It’s clear to see the night has something to offer everyone, and there’s even a cheeky bit of spoken word and comedy thrown into the mix.

     This is a brilliant charity and a fantastic event to kickstart the festive season. With a mulled cider, some good music, great company and the warm feeling that your money is going towards making a difference, don’t sit in this cold Wednesday night. Come along to Festive Freedom Fringe at The Flapper and support this fantastic society.

Tickets are available here for £4 and a limited number will be available on the door.

      Feel like this society is something you might be interested in? Well the society will be changing hands this February and they are looking for keen and enthusiastic students who feel they really want to make their voice heard and have an opportunity to really make a difference. Come along to Festive Freedom Fringe and all information will be available, as well as a chance to chat to existing members.

By Noemi Barranca


Classics at the Movies by CBSO @ Symphony Hall


Often, when it came to classical music, I used to feel like there was a bit of a boundary that existed. When I was younger, I often felt that I ‘didn’t get’ classical music and would grow impatient with it quickly, due to naivety and to craving a fast food pop music fix.

However, attending ‘Classics at the Movies’ at Symphony Hall in Birmingham I had the realisation that classical music is embedded in my enjoyment of pop culture thoroughly and has more of a presence within my life than I had ever imagined. ‘Classics at the Movies’ paired the work of the late and great composers, including Wagner, Mozart, Strauss and Puccini with their use in film, which created a fantastic merging of pop culture and classical music, demonstrating how perfectly different composers have the skill to capture a range of emotions and moments, illuminating classical music’s presence, and relevance in everyday life. The performance featured various pieces from a vast range of films, which differed wildly in genre and date, ranging from A Room with a View, to Babe and Die Hard 2, capturing that moment in the cinema when you realise you recognize the tune, however you just can’t put your finger on its origin.

The resident, ninety-piece ensembles were conducted by Michael Seal and leading proceedings was Barry Norman. Norman, who presented BBC Film from 1972-1998 was the perfect addition to the evening. He narrated each piece and provided his own characteristic introduction of each work and the film in which it appeared. His presenting style often broke the intensity of each work, his casual chat in between each searing number punctuated the energy and immersion that occurred in each performance, allowing the audience a well-deserved breather, to recover from the depth and scale that each classical number provided. It also offered insight into classic films and their relationship with classical music – for instance, how Stanley Kubrick originally commissioned an entirely futuristic score for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but ditched it upon hearing Johnann Strauss’s The Blue Danube, the work which is synonymous with the film.

Hearing the CBSO play in a setting as stunning as Symphony Hall is truly recommended and a definite must if visiting, or living in, Birmingham. For stunning live music, in an awe-inspiring location, Symphony Hall is the perfect place to visit to escape day-to-day life and immerse yourself in a performance that is guaranteed to stun.

By Lottie Halstead

GMTG presents: Spring Awakening

After almost a year in the making, University of Birmingham’s musical theatre society, GMTG, are unveiling their take on the eight times Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening on 26th November. Fans should be aware that Broadway’s rock and roll musical has been transformed into a piece of expressionistic physical theatre, complete with surrealist costumes, live-art and video projections. I talked to artistic director Jake Dorrell to discover what inspired this creative process.


The musical is based on Frank Wedekind’s original 1891 play, which explores the awakening of sexuality and identity in a group of confused young teenagers and criticises the sexually-oppressive culture of 19th century Germany. Due to its controversial subject matter, including rape, child abuse, homosexuality, suicide, and abortion, the play was often censored or banned outright. Jake described how he completely fell in love with the story but found the successful 2006 Broadway version, which starred Glee’s Lea Michele, insulting, stating that ‘it completely sexualises it’ and that ‘it’s funny when it shouldn’t be funny. I’ve forbidden the cast from watching it on YouTube!’

His interpretation of the musical focuses on the strange surreal world of adolescence that the teenagers are entering and projects that world onto the stage. Thus, you are ‘not supposed to leave thinking you’ve seen a play- it’s like stepping into a moving art installation.’ Jake has drawn on German expressionism, in which the set looms around the spectator, and is using two enormous projections to surround the audience and help them to see from a child’s perspective.

‘This summer I nearly ran away with the circus’ Jake suddenly declared, and after a hilarious anecdote he revealed that the show’s costumes are heavily influenced by the circus and clown make up: ‘Lucien Freud meets Cirque du Soleil!’ All of the costumes are hand-made and hand-painted by Maysie Chandler and everything has been sourced individually. Jake described how he found himself struggling home from the rag market carrying hula hoops, wadding and vintage clothes.

Indeed, the effort put into the production by cast and crew is incredible. Jake described the initial audition process as ‘torturous’; it took five days and included four-hour-long physical theatre workshops. In stamina classes, the cast are pushed to their limits: ‘they leave dripping with sweat and can’t walk for days,’ Jake says half-jokingly and pauses before adding with a laugh ‘I’m probably a bit of a nightmare to work with!’

spring awakening

The production also draws on the personal experiences of gay, bisexual and pansexual students and the LBGTQ society played a part in talking to the cast about ‘what it’s like to be different’. Jake wanted to ensure that all issues in the play were thoroughly explored and that the finished piece was ‘meaningful’. Local transgender arts, teenage suicide, and depression charities have been invited to collect donations after the show- highlighting the reality of the play’s issues to the audience. As summed up by Jake, GMTG’s production is a ‘social message conveyed artistically’.

Overall, Jake tells viewers not to expect a cheesy, jazz-hands musical. Nor is it a family show, given its explicit sexual content. He advised people coming to see it to be ‘be incredibly open-minded’ and to ‘expect the unexpected’ before announcing ‘we’re doing things that have never, ever been done before. I’m excited!’

Performances run from 26-30th November

Tickets are available now at

£4 GMTG Members
£5 Concessions
£8 Others

Production Team:
Directer – Jake Dorrell
Musical Director – Ollie Hance
Producers – Ricky Carey and Ciara Cohen-Ennis
Choreographer – William Costello
Costume – Maysie Chandler
Stage Managers – Rachel Fulham, Katherine Grayson, Jacob Standbridge and Rebecca Maynard

By Ellicia Pendle

Luke Concannon & Jimmy Davis @ The Glee Club

Sunday 17th November
Co-headline album release show for two Midlands artists championed by Ed Sheeran.
Jimmy Davis + Luke Concannon
Luke Concannon (Nizlopi-JCB Song) is fresh from finishing his new album, inspired by his hitch-hiking mission to Palestine. This is Soul fired, Folk Hip-Hop from the depths.
Full of life, music, and stories, his gigs are exuberant and fierce! He loves to get people involved, so get ready to sing and dance. These gigs are passionate life or death struggles to ‘give everything’ and to engage the people in an act of celebration and dissolution in to music. 
With Nizlopi, Luke experienced the heights of Top Of The Pops, playing Wembley Arena, Hyde Park to 20000 people, and selling close to one million records, all from an independent family and friends run record label based in one room in his parent’s house.
‘Political, intense, angular, and beautiful’ – Colin Murray, BBC
‘My Childhood hero’ – Ed Sheeran
– – – – –
Jimmy Davis speaks for a voiceless generation, who long for an end to the injustices and lack of care that blight the world.
The authenticity and realness need not be hyped. He might be the skinny kid from the gutter you chose to ignore…the same kid who grew up to boss the boardroom. He might be waving a placard, marching at the front of the ‘stop the war’ demo, or perhaps he’s the unassuming guy making changes in his life to ensure a slightly rosier future for the planet. Perhaps even the bloke in the boozer waxing lyrical about football, politics and global issues. 
With the world poised on the brink of change, a time when there are more questions than answers, Davis emerges with music that touches heart and soul, that speaks to strong family ties and connected communities…to greater care for the earth and, vitally, more fun, more laughter, more dancing, more quintessentially English antics. 
Davis’ kindness, humility and generosity are self-evident. Equally unmissable is his razor tongue and words – establishing him as a standout artist in the emerging field of conscious lyricism and his fans and collaborators include Ed Sheeran, Luke Concannon, Blak Twang and Damien Dempsey. 
Jimmy and his band The Barefoot Apostles have also crafted a dazzling live show through performing at Glastonbury, Oxjam and Birmingham Artsfest, as well as supporting friend Ed Sheeran at both his Brixton Academy and Shepherd’s Bush Empire gigs and performing alongside Ed with chart hit ‘You Need Me I Don’t Need You’ on stage at Croissant Neuf. 
‘Big love to @jimmydavisdavis – just bought his album ‘belief passion commitment’ from iTunes, wicked vibes, great words! Brum’s finest’ – Ed Sheeran 
‘The last time I heard Jimmy Davis was in a kitchen in Kilburn County, London. The room was full of deadly musicians but Jimmy put us all to shame when his poetry swelled with love and passion and anger and eloquence, so rhythmic and urgent and informative, the roof nearly blew off the place! In my mind it did. I could see the stars, he blew me cranium wide open!’ – Damien Dempsey
Doors: 7pm
Tickets: £7.50 (+ 75p booking fee)
Age: 16+
Box Office: 0871 472 0400 |

Lessons in Geography Arts Conference @ mac birmingham


Friday 8 & Saturday 9 November, 10am – 5pm


Between the idea. And the reality. Between the motion. And the act. Falls the Shadow.

[The Hollow Men/ T.S. Eliot]

Inspired by Italo Calvino’s seminal novel ‘Invisible Cities’ and Jonathan Swift’s enduring ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, this conference is concerned with the properties of geography in the broadest sense. It asks how do our histories shape our perspective of a particular place, be that real, metaphorical or imagined? And how does experience influence our interpretations and readings of a given environment?

Here artists, writers and commentators discuss the complex space between the physical and hypothetical realms within creative practice. The processes and manifestations of artistic endeavour are central to the debate, with an examination of qualitative differences and dependencies between the intangible idea, theory or concept and the material object created.

Contributors include:

Tom Hunter Internationally acclaimed artist and Professor in Photography Research at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London | Gemma Marmalade Artist and lecturer at University of Bedfordshire | Bharti Parmar Artist and academic | Christine Checinska Artist and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of East London | Jananne Al-Ani Artist and Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London | Eva Marín Artist and lecturer at Instituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona | Martin Newth Artist and Programme Director of BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design | Fergus Heron Artist and senior lecturer at the University of Brighton | Stuart Griffiths Artist and writer | Carol Mavor Artist, writer and Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Manchester | Anna Falcini Artist and researcher | Harun Morrison Co-director of Fierce Festival and one half of multi-disciplinary collective They Are Here | Jacqueline Butler Artist and Pathway Leader of MA Photography at The Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University | Erasmus Schroeter Artist and academic

Lessons in Geography
is co produced by mac birmingham and The University of Derby. The conference organisers are Craig Ashley and Vered Lahav.

Image:  Gemma Marmalade, Strange Birds (still from video). 2011. Courtesy the artist.

Take a look at the programme for the day here.
£25 (£20) Day ticket

£40 (£30) Multi buy – 2 day ticket

Students can get concessions (ID required).

Also, students can get £5 off each ticket with the code LIG10 – £15 day tickets reduced to £10.


Only Remembered: Michael Morpurgo at the Birmingham Hippodrome


National Theatre’s internationally acclaimed production of War Horse is currently enjoying a completely sold-out run of four weeks at Birmingham Hippodrome, on Friday 8 November author of the original novel Michael Morpurgo will host a special performance titled ‘Only Remembered’ at the theatre on the same weekend as the annual Remembrance Sunday events.

Michael will be reading excerpts from the novel telling the powerful and deeply-moving story of young Albert and his beloved horse Joey accompanied on stage by acclaimed musicians John Tams and Barry Coope who will bring the haunting songs specially composed for the production to life.

The story of War Horse is seen through the eyes of Joey the horse who witnesses the pity of war on both sides of the trenches as he moves from life on a farm in peaceful Devon to the devastation of the Western Front in the First World War.

Speaking about the event, Michael Morpurgo said, “’War Horse the book was inspired by a fireside chat in a Devon pub, over 30 years ago, with a veteran of the First World War. It has since been a National Theatre play, and a symphony concert piece, a radio play, and a Spielberg movie. But this concert version adapted by John Tams (the song-maker of the NT production, now four years into its London run) and sung by John Tams himself and Barry Coope, is the closest of all the adaptations to the original book, in which the voice of the storyteller is the voice of Joey, the horse on a Devon farm, sold away to the army to go to the front in 1914.  And it’s the version in which, as the reader of the story on stage, I am most involved.  Every time I read it, with John and Barry’s glorious music interwoven with the words,  I feel as if I’m telling it for the first time, as if I was there, as the old soldier in the pub was all those years ago.”

Birmingham Hippodrome is proud to host this special event focusing on the events of WW1 and to bring Michael’s novel to life in his own words.

Michael Morpurgo OBE is mostly known for writing children’s fiction and was the third British Children’s Laureate between 2003-2005, he has written over 120 books during his career.

Only Remembered plays at Birmingham Hippodrome Fri 8 November 2013, 2pm. Tickets priced £15-£21, schools £10. Tickets can be purchased by calling 0844 338 5000 or by visiting

UoB Book to the Future and Writers’ Bloc present: UniSlam!

1243952_10151629833181638_1322662633_oAs part of Book To The Future, the University of Birmingham’s first ever literature festival, Writers’ Bloc are proud to present UniSlam!, the UK’s first ever national inter-university poetry slam championships.

Watch the best student poets, including a team from UoB, battle it out over 3 rounds, culminating with a grand final in the 420-seat Elgar Concert Hall, for the coveted title of UniSlam! Champions.

The teams will be judged by professional poets Luke Kennard, Helen Monks, Martin Glynn and Matt Windle, and hosted by Bohdan Piasecki.

Come and join us for this FREE poetry extravaganza. All are welcome – bring your friends, family and pets for what is certain to be a day/night to remember!


TIME: Heats 2–3.30 pm. Semi-Final 4.30pm-6pm.
Final 7pm-9:30pm

LOCATION: Heats in Lecture Rooms 1, 2 and 3, Arts Building
Semi-final and final in Elgar Concert Hall, Bramall Music Building

Bramall-homepage-v2For more information on the whole festival, visit –

University of Birmingham presents: Book To The Future Literature Festival


Book to the Future is the University of Birmingham’s first festival of the written and spoken word. They’re delighted to be able to bring you a packed programme of workshops, lectures, readings and question and answer sessions featuring our own academic, student and alumni talent as well as an exciting range of well known authors, poets, playwrights and storytellers.

Running from Thursday 24 October to Tuesday 29 October, festival features a range of topics from poetry to magazine publishingcomic books to crimescience fiction to Charles Dickens and even the Battle of Bosworth to the Book of the Dead.


Diana Vreeland as an international woman of style, Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene © Horst.

You are invited to take part in our on-campus book swap or write your part in the Book of Birmingham. You can even help us to break a world record in the University’s inspiring Great Hall (“Most people balancing books on their heads” which currently stands at 939) on Sunday 27 October and whilst you’re there, why not support our student society, Writers’ Bloc, competing in UniSlam! – the first UK-wide University performance poetry competition.

All of these events are happening on our beautiful campus in the heart of Edgbaston. We are looking forward to welcoming all of the community to Book to the Future and there’s a range of events suitable for all the family. Why not take a story tour with storytellers Annamation on Tuesday 29 October and explore our campus with your children? Or discover a Weird World of Wonders with Sir Tony Robinson on Friday 25 October?

Join us in celebrating the creativity that exists on campus and within our community. 

For a full programme and more information, visit –