Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland- interview

'From Here' is a contemporary song-cycle that was shown at Chiswick Playhouse recently, developed by Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland. Featuring a cast of four, it explores segments in different life stories, depicting a variety of memories and milestones, alongside a beautiful and varied score that has elements that relate to everyone.


Click here to read my review!




Since seeing the show, I was eager to know more about Ben and Lucy's work, so reached out to them with some questions, and here's what they said...


 

Straying away from the most common categories of theatre, while building on the growing popularity of the song-cycle, I was particularly curious to discover why this choice was made, as well as how the show came about.


What were the thoughts behind developing ‘From Here’, particularly as to why you chose to make it a song-cycle?


‘From Here’ is a musical born out of the pandemic. The question ‘where do we go from here?’ was first discussed between us in April 2020, as we contemplated the end of the pandemic (not knowing at the time when this might be!). We wondered whether as individuals and as a society we’d look forward more to the ‘end’ of something, to end the chapter and never look back, or the beginning of something else- to use the opportunity to learn and start afresh. When we started to discuss this central theme more, we found that there were so many different avenues that this question could lead us when thinking about every day life- be it friendships, relationships, grief, work or even something as simple as a perfect morning not going as planned! The more and more ‘observational’ these thoughts became, the more it became clear that a song-cycle was an appropriate form. We could give glimpses into the windows of all these stories, connected by a central theme, and in doing so hopefully create something that audiences can all connect with on some level.




In addition to its initial creation during the pandemic, as with many things, the writing process had to be adapted too.


How was the writing process, conducting it over Zoom?


It was an interesting one to say the least! At first we found it quite strange, especially with the concept of having to communicate and work with one another in completely separate locations. But eventually we started to get into the flow of it, and found it was actually often easier, as we were able to multitask and manage lots of things separately. The only issue was of course the dreaded Zoom lag, which meant singing and accompanying one another was a little tricky. On the whole though, it’s definitely a way of working that we’ve adapted to and it’s safe to say we’ll be able to do it again if needs be.




At several points during its run, both Ben and Lucy took upon roles in their piece.


What was it like creating a show and subsequently performing in it yourself?


BEN: For me, performing in the show that we had written was such a brilliant experience - especially getting to share in it with Lucy. The first time we both went on, we had a duet together - and I had such a moment whilst singing that number of thinking: this is something we have created throughout a difficult time, and now we’re stood together singing it in front of an audience?! Crazy!


LUCY: It was such a whirlwind! Everything happened so quickly when we stepped in, but the adrenaline of it made it all the more fun! Performing with Ben, especially in the numbers when we were on stage together, was so special. There were moments where we would interact with one another, and we would both have pure joy on our faces because we were actually performing something we’d created. Honestly I’ve never felt anything like it!




Do you have a favourite part of the show, and why?


BEN: My favourite moment in the show changed so much over the course of writing, rehearsing and then the run, but I think my final answer would be: the last ninety seconds or so of the show. The last song starts small and reflective- but by the last minute and a half, it settles into what I think is a really satisfying groove as it becomes a musical celebration of the show’s message with lots of crunchy harmonies and other fun things!


LUCY: It really does change constantly, but there is the one song that I’ve always found a rollercoaster to watch and subsequently perform too- it’s about grief and how we deal with it as people. I think as well it’s probably the most relatable song in the show as it’s such a common experience. No matter what age you are, you can empathise with the character.




With the 18 month closure of theatres, each and every show welcoming audiences back at this time is part of a very memorable experience.


How has it felt being part of the return of theatre at such a monumental time for the industry?


It’s been incredibly exciting! We are so grateful that we’ve been able to write, develop, and perform in a piece of theatre. It’s devastating to see how theatre has been affected by this pandemic and we hope that soon it can return to normal. It’s been so surreal to be back in a rehearsal room with other creatives and performers crafting an entirely new project, and we hope it has another life beyond this!




As the show has drawn to the end of its run, what is something you hope people have taken from it?


We hope that they can understand the show’s message- however they may perceive it- as appreciating the moments in life that we may often miss or overlook. We also hope the songs in the show will connect to everyone in some way, whether it be personal or not. The songs spark a range of emotions and each number is entirely different, so we hope, ultimately, our audiences just have fun and enjoy their evening!




While From Here may be over for now, there are new adventures on the horizon.


Have you got any exciting upcoming projects you’d like to share?


We are both actually scheduled to be in the cast of the upcoming UK and International Tour of ‘Footloose the Musical’, so we literally can’t seem to get rid of each other! (Not that that’s a bad thing, says Ben…hoping that Lucy agrees!). Whilst we’re away, I’m sure we’ll write more. We’re also hoping that these last few months have really only the beginning for ‘From Here’, and we look forward to seeing how that journey unfolds...be sure to follow along with us, hopefully there’ll be some exciting things!




And lastly, who inspires you, and why?


BEN: In terms of musical theatre writing, I think that everything we listen to goes some way towards inspiring- learning what we like, what we don’t gel with quite so well, discovering new interesting things about harmony, melody, lyric-writing etc. But in terms of ‘From Here’ specifically, it’s the wonderful people in our lives, I think: friends and family, and the experiences we share with them- that’s what makes the show so observational in its nature, and they’re also the people that remind us that the show’s message is so important: that we sometimes have to sit in the middle of a moment and make time to love what we have around us.


LUCY: I have a lot of people who inspire me - musicians, writers and performers, friends and family- but I find it changes overtime with who I am drawn to. Often it’s how I’m feeling at that moment in time! Throughout this project I’ve learnt a lot from the people I’ve worked with, in so many different ways. It’s been inspiring seeing everyone return to theatre and persevere through the pandemic - I don’t think we’ve experienced such a difficult period of time as a society in my lifetime. So seeing people do what they do best has been very inspiring and uplifting!


 

Huge thanks to Ben and Lucy for taking part in this interview and such fantastic answers, sharing more about From Here, being part of theatre's incredible post-pandemic revival plans, and what's to come. I look forward to enjoying your future works, and best of luck to you both in the upcoming tour of Footloose- I'll definitely make sure to be there!


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{Some grammar is amended for clarity}