Trinity Theatre has just kicked off its run of three seasonal productions – two of which are brand new works. Here the venue’s Artistic Director Sean Turner tells Eileen Leahy why he and his creative crew are relishing the challenge of putting on The New Musketeers, The Aliens Who Saved Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street…
Trinity Theatre, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, has always offered its audiences an alternative to the traditional Christmas panto, but for 2022 the team there are doing something very ambitious by putting on no less than three different shows.
As well as two original productions: The New Musketeers and The Aliens Who Saved Christmas, the much-loved venue is also performing the festive classic Miracle on 34th Street.
So why did the theatre’s Artistic Director Sean Turner decide to take on the task of doing three productions, when he could have easily settled for just one – and an easy life?
“I think that as we are a community and cultural space it’s our duty to offer something for everyone,” says Sean.
“Some people might come with their toddlers to see The Aliens Who Saved Christmas and have such a great time they’ll think ‘let’s go and see The New Musketeers’. And that’s the same with our third show Miracle on 34th Street – we believe it will appeal to all ages as it’s such a classic Christmas tale.”
But as well as providing something for everyone, Sean, who took over at the theatre in July 2021 and is best known for his work as Associate Director on The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End and No Villain, wants to deliver the very best of playhouse theatre right to our doorstep.
“We want our audiences to realise just how professional these productions are and that’s what we are about at Trinity. We want to deliver the best we can and for people to come back and enjoy more of what we have to offer. I’m absolutely determined to give the best we can.”
And having witnessed a sneak peek of rehearsals ahead of our interview I can testify that whatever performance you might be going to see – if not all three – then you’re in for a treat!
From Irfan Damani and Hollie-Anne Price’s impressive sword fighting displays to Dannie Harris jumping on the rehearsal room’s piano to accompany Max Kinder’s guitar playing and Will Taylor’s brilliant razor sharp humour, this crew is not only multi-talented but wholly invested in giving their all to their multiple roles.
“I think we play around 52 different roles between us,” says Hollie-Anne who also plays the saxophone and reveals that this is her first professional acting role.
“You’re certainly getting value for money with these shows,” smiles Dannie Harris who’s written the songs for The New Musketeers in which she also stars alongside Jack Stacey and Jesse Ashby.
Between the three productions the cast are doing everything from singing carols and swishing capes to playing live, dancing, creating sound effects and generally causing chaos so there’s definitely variety for everyone involved…
“It reminds me of traditional rep theatre,” says Jack who has worked with Sean on The Play That Goes Wrong, BBC1’s Poldark and has also co-written The New Musketeers with Sean, Matthew Howell.
“There’s never a moment when you are on stage alone. There are always others there and you know you have their support. And I think that’s what separates us from others. When you come and see us perform it’s new, exciting and hopefully hilarious, which is what we set out to do.”
Matthew Howell tells me how amazing it is to see The New Musketeers brought to life after three years of the group writing it together.
“Just to hear those words on a page being spoken out loud – we still get a buzz from that,” he confides. Matthew is also performing too – and rumour has it his turn as Cardinal Richelieu and as a sound effect artist – or foley – on Miracle are not to be missed!
“We want people to have a laugh,” adds Jack. “Our aim from the work we’ve put in over the last three years is quite simply to make the play as funny as possible.”
The second original production for audiences to enjoy at Trinity this Christmas is The Aliens Who Saved Christmas, which was written by and stars Winnie Southgate, alongside actor Irfan Damani.
Winnie reveals that the show, which is set in space and features alien characters Splat and Sniff trying to help Santa’s elves make all his toys in time, has been nothing short of brilliant fun to work on.
“The show sees lots of action – including Irfan and I wearing silver foil tubes! So you’ll just have to come along with your little ones and see what it’s all about!”
“There’s no hiding on this one,” Irfan says. “It’s just the two of us which can be daunting as I have a lot of lines but it will be fun! Winnies’ writing is amazing – it’s genius.”
Aliens also has some fun tunes in it too, which will appeal to the little ones watching Sean tells me.
“Music is definitely a through line in each production. In Miracle on 34th Street you have all these hopeful and joyful Christmas Carols all played live and then in Musketeers pretty much everyone sings or plays an instrument.
“It’s great to be able to perform live,” confirms Stephen Hynde the show’s Musical Director who has co-ordinated all the songs and numbers across each of the three shows.
Matthew says that the thing he likes about Lance Arthur Smith’s Miracle on 34th Street is that there’s so much positivity. It also stars local Trinity Youth Theatre talent who Sean describes as the ‘incredible’ 11-year-old Ellie Canning in the role of the young child Susan Walker.
Miracle on 34th Street which is a live music ‘radio play’ and a traditional festive tale is set in New York’s Macy’s Department Store. It follows the charming and heart-warming story of a young girl, her mother and a lawyer trying to ensure the store’s Santa Claus – AKA Kris Kringle isn’t locked up for being mad and that he is indeed the real deal!
“There’s this wonderful hope running through the spirit of it which I personally really appreciate as it has been a very difficult few years for everyone. This play proves that we can look out for each other and it also shows that we have much more hope together than we might realise.”
All three shows’ choreography is done by Sam Blackden, the action direction is by Marcello Marascalchi, set design is by Tony Award winner Nigel Hook and costumes are by the West End’s Nicky Bunch. Again, more proof of the professionalism involved at Trinity. The talented lighting designer on all three productions is James Dean.
“These shows are going to raise the bar. There will be lots of surprises and lots of laughs,” Sean declares.
Max who plays Buckingham in The New Musketeers and Fred in Miracle on 34th Street adds: “It’s got to be a giggle and it’s got to have that Christmas Eve magic about it.
“It’s going to be a fast turnaround and a bit daunting as the schedule is crazy,” says Millie Swinchen Rew the show’s stage manager, “But it’s going to be an awful lot of fun!”
For details and booking for the shows, visit: trinitytheatre.net