MTC-Aylesbury Workshop With Harveen Mann

This week is half term and has been extremely hectic – in a good way of course! On Wednesday, we dashed back down from London so that I could go to a very special choir rehearsal – an acting through song workshop with star-of-the-stage Harveen Mann, known for her roles in Bend It Like Beckham and The Witches.

Recently, we have been working on the song ‘Louder Than Words’ from Tick Tick Boomwhich is a lovely song and has been a lot of fun and fairly challenging to work on. As it was half term, we were lucky enough to be allowed to use the main stage for our workshop so we had a lot more space and we were rehearsing on a proper stage – exciting!

We started off with our warm-up which was led by Harveen, who introduced us to a new one – ‘many men’ to the tune of ‘William Tell’. Try getting your tongue round that!

After the warm-up, the real work began! We did a sing-through of ‘Louder Than Words’, after which Harveen gave us a few pointers about how we could really tell the story through the song, which words we should be emphasising and how we could make a repeated phrase different each time. We then spent a little time analysing our posture when singing and Harveen taught us how to stand properly and most importantly for a lot of us, what to do with our hands. Top tip: never hold your music with two hands. Ever. A couple more run-throughs and the song was sounding so much better than it had done when we started – “like a different piece” was the feedback from Harveen and perhaps I am biased but I think she was right – I personally felt a hundred times more confident and comfortable performing it.

At the end of the workshop, Harveen very kindly allowed us to do a little Q&A session which was really interesting and insightful. She told us about how she got into acting, how she juggles an acting career with four other jobs (bionic woman?) and how brutal the business can be.

I think I speak for all of us when I say we were all just a little bit starstruck and all had the best time ever. On behalf of all of us at Aylesbury Musical Theatre Choir, I would like to thank Chris and Ashley for organising the workshop and Harveen for joining us for the evening – we loved it and hope you will come again soon!


Photo credit to MTC-Aylesbury


The Women of Bletchley Park

I have always found the wartime work at Bletchley Park fascinating. I don’t know why, I have no idea what triggered this fascination but it is something that, especially considering it’s time, was quite remarkable. I have since been to Bletchley Park and watched a number of series and films based on the works there and as you can probably tell, all of these have inspired the story below.

This story was originally submitted to the Dangerous Women Project, a project exploring the power of women and how they may be interpreted as dangerous. Unfortunately, my submission was not accepted, so I’m sharing it with you lovely lot instead.

Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

“Goodness gracious!” Mr Hartman cried out as smoke proceeded to rise from the pot in front of me. I looked up sheepishly. “If you had a brain you’d be dangerous!” He laughed heartily, yet in an unforgiving manner. I was thirteen at the time of this incident. It was one of many. I always had a rather creative knack for Mathematics and Science at school, well, that’s how my teachers put it anyway, but it seems that knack only got me into Oxford University to study Mathematics and I only graduated with a First. I decided right then at that moment that I must, in that case, be dangerous because I was human and I had a brain. The fact was, you can’t live without a brain, so all humans must be dangerous.

Six years on from that particular day and I was in my second year at Oxford. I was walking along the great hallways one blustery afternoon, minding my own business when I found myself jolting as I realised I had speed-walked head-first into a group five boys, all of which were in the year above me. I looked up at them, startled and mumbled an apology. One jeering boy handed me my stack of books that had scattered themselves across the corridor and I quickly carried on in the direction of the residential halls. As I walked past, I heard one of them say, in a deliberately loud voice, “if women had brains, they’d be dangerous.” That was it. That must have been what Mr Hartman meant all those years ago, ” if women had brains they’d be dangerous”. Full marks for your subtlety, Sir.

It is now November 1939 and Britain is in the midst of war. Since leaving university, I have struggled to find work, even as a secretary because I am a woman. Just twelve months later, I received a letter inviting me to an interview at a place called Bletchley Park, however, the exact requirements of the job were suspiciously brief.

The following week I took the train on an hour’s journey to Bletchley and was buzzing with excitement after the interview. As it turns out, Bletchley Park wanted to recruit the most intelligent people in the country, women included, to work there during the war in an attempt to crack the Germans’ coded messages to help Britain win the war. Furthermore, the following day, I got a telegram offering me a position there. I have only eight words for my old Science teacher and those boys in the corridor at Oxford: Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Continue reading

A Christmas Miracle

On Friday, I visited the Christmas Market in Birmingham and had the best time. I love how traditional all the markets are, all the gifts and food are handmade and the atmosphere is pure magic. This inspired me to write a little festive story which you can read below. Your thoughts on this are always greatly received and appreciated.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The city was engulfed in every colour light you could possibly imagine as evening drew in fast. The Christmas market was at its most magical at this time and no-one could walk past without so much as cracking even the smallest smile at the festivities.

Jolly the elf was skipping along the sparkling streets merrily, breathing in deeply to inhale the scents of Christmas spices, hot mulled wine and roast meats when he suddenly leapt into the air with joy and ended up face-first into a rather hard rubber-soled shoe. “Oh!” He exclaimed in surprise. Looking up, he saw a man, no older than thirty, he decided. “I am ever so sorry.” He apologised. The man simply shook his head, stood up and began to walk away. “Hey!” Jolly called. “Merry Christmas, sir!”

“Hmph.” The man grunted, without stopping or looking over his shoulder. Jolly blinked twice and followed the man. He ran and ran as fast as his elf-sized legs would carry him, took one leap and clung for dear life onto the man’s leg, just above the knee, causing him to stumble and finally stop. “What do you think you’re doing, you crazy…you crazy…” He burst out in exasperation.

“Elf?” Jolly suggested.

“Yes!” The man yelled.

“You mean you’re not bothered that there’s an abnormally small, magical creature talking to you right now?” He asked, rather taken aback.

“Don’t be ridiculous, this is all just some stupid Christmas joke somebody’s trying to pull off. Elf? As if!” He laughed bitterly.

“No it’s true!” Jolly began to explain. “Every year, Father Christmas sends some of his elves all around the world to spread the Christmas spirit and patrol the festivities and I can see that you, my friend, have a severe case of the Christmas blues.” He concluded.

“Christmas is for families.”

“What about your family?” Jolly asked sensitively.

“Mum died when my sister and I were small and we lost Dad in the New Year. Penny wanted a fresh start and moved to Canada in October. Christmas means nothing to me any more.” He told the elf downheartedly.

“Don’t you believe in Christmas miracles?”

Continue reading

A few weeks ago, I went into work like I would on any other weekday and was shocked by how cold the classroom was. Has someone left the windows open all weekend? I thought to myself. It will be warmer in the staffroom, I decided. How wrong was I? It turned out that the heating was broken. Great. Anyway, us staff spent the day sorting out our classrooms whilst the children enjoyed a day at home in the warm and in the afternoon, all staff in the school got together and did our own version of Band Aid and it was brilliant fun and a great end to the day. The video was then edited to promote how fantastic our school is and to raise money, so, I now present to you…Booker Park Does Band Aid!

I know this blog is supposed to be primarily about musical theatre, however, as some of you may know, I work in a Special Needs school. The video below is of a lovely little girl I worked with last year, Esme. She has a genetic condition called Rett Syndrome and a short feature was filmed about her on BBC News. I sincerely hope that features such as this help to promote awareness of rare conditions such as Rett’s.


The Final Show

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you my very first shared short story! I really hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Evelyn O’Darrell was seated in her dressing room for the final time after eighteen months of touring the UK in the role she had dreamed of playing ever since she discovered theatre as a child. Evelyn had always loved the theatre and knew that the only place for her was the big, bright stage and there was no feeling quite like the rush of adrenaline you get when the first note of the orchestra strikes up, or when you take your bow and the audience are applauding you, and only you. As she got ready to leave for the final time, Evelyn thought back over the past year and a half she had spent with the show.

As she unbuttoned her heavy, velvet black dress, she thought back to her audition for the role. The process was a long one, she recalled, eight auditions in total over the course of nearly two months. Evelyn had worked harder than she had ever, ever worked before for this role. It was her big chance, her chance to shine, she had only ever been given ensemble roles before which, of course, she loved but this was different, it just felt so right, although arriving at the audition quickly scuppered her hopes when she saw how many people, and who for that matter, she was up against. There were some very well known faces amongst the candidates, they were bound to choose one of them over someone like me, she thought to herself downheartedly. Even so, she sung her heart out and put in all the emotion she could possibly summon into her chosen song. No sooner had she walked in the door of her house, her phone began to ring. It was her agent. This call could make or break me, she thought to herself. She picked it up and was overjoyed to be told that she had made it through to the next round. The process repeated itself the second, third, fourth and fifth time but by the sixth audition, her confidence had grown and she felt for the first time that she was really in with a fighting chance. Stage number eight of the audition came and went and after all being quiet for the following two days, Evelyn decided that it was apparently not to be this time, but she had had such a great experience that she would not be hasty in trying again for another role. Getting her first solo role was always going to be the most difficult and besides, she was only twenty-five, there would surely be plenty more opportunities. That same evening, her phone rang whilst her and her family were in the middle of dinner. She took the call out in the garden, where it was peaceful and private, apart from the cat and the odd bird that came to rest on the fence until said cat caught sight of it. After ten minutes, Evelyn went back inside with a huge grin on her face.

“I got the part!” She told her family excitedly. Immediately, they all jumped up out of their seats and gave her a big hug, they were proud of her beyond words. It was a wonderful moment for them all.

Snapping back out of her daydream, Evelyn was interrupted by her two fellow cast members entering their shared dressing room in a rather ungainly manner, both laughing uncontrollably. Evelyn herself could not help but crack a fond smile at her two best friends’ antics, as she was by now very used to them and they were one of the things she would surely miss most about the show.

Continue reading

Four Candles

In light of the recent sad passing of comedy legend Ronnie Corbett, I thought I would share my favourite Two Ronnies sketch with you. Many of you will, I’m sure, be familiar with this but ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Four Candles…