Last month, Urinetown, the musical, made its way to the Milton Court Theatre, to be taken on by a cast and crew of students from the Guildhall School. It promised to be exceedingly funny and packed with a range of admirable tracks, as well as depict a clever, original and relevant storyline.
Unfortunately, due to the effects of the recent storm, I was unable to see the show live to review, though will definitely be watching when it is streamed from this Friday. However, it was arranged for two lovely students from Guildhall School who have worked on the production- Jonathan Chan, lighting designer, and Amy Hill, costume supervisor- to talk about what it's been like working on Urinetown, so keep reading if you'd like to find out more.
Please may you tell us a bit about the show, including its plot and music?
Jonathan: The story revolves around a rebellion against paid public toilets, owned and controlled by the company 'Urine Good Company.' If the poor fail to pay, they'll immediately be sent to this mythical place called 'Urinetown.' This is a show you shouldn't miss, the music, the jokes and more importantly the topics this show explores are still very relevant to our current age.
Amy: The show is a comedy set in a world where there has been a water drought and the toilets are controlled by a company who charge people to use them. It breaks the fourth wall and is self-aware that it’s a musical and follows Bobby Strong who rises to lead a revolution to allow people to ‘pee for free’.
How would you describe your role within the team working on Urinetown?
Jonathan: The core of my role is to help tell the story alongside the creative team. The earlier stages before the move into the theatre is quite technical as I have to create a layout of the lighting (proper terms - plan), in which I regard to being my palette. This process coincides with attending rehearsals and going to meetings with both Ashley and Libby (director and designer) to discuss more about the collective vision of the piece. Once we move into the theatre, this is where I do all my creative work; it can be seen as quite a daunting task, as everyone but yourself has managed to create their art before the move into the theatre, however, it's also very rewarding when you look back as my work helps puts all the elements together.
Amy: My role was Costume Supervisor, so I worked closely with our designer, Libby Watson, leading my team of Costume Assistant and Wardrobe Manager to source costumes from charity shops, highstreet and online shops, markets, and Guildhall School’s costume store to bring the costume designs to real life. We then fit the costumes and make any alterations or, in this case, a lot of breaking down for the poor costumes to give them a dirty appearance onstage and then help the actors in the wings facilitating any quick changes or costume related needs for the actors. I work closely with stage management to get notes coming from the rehearsal room that may affect costume and schedule costume fittings as well as rehearsal costumes, which was very important for this show being a musical; costume has a big impact on movement when doing choreography.
If you weren’t doing yours, what other role would you like to have taken on for this production?
Jonathan: I'd love to have programmed the lighting for this show, it's a very fast-paced piece with a lot of challenges and treats; which makes it quite fun to programme.
Amy: I would love to be able to DSM (Deputy Stage Manager) and call a show, I think it’s such a skill to be able to read music and follow the script as well as have people talking to you and keeping an eye on the stage all at the same time!
Do you have a particular favourite part of the show?
Jonathan: 'Run Freedom Run,' the big production number in Act 2 has got to be my favourite. It's just very satisfying for me, as I was able to go for it with the lighting.
Amy: I love the Mr Caldwell number! It always makes me laugh and we spent ages dying the lab coats yellow for the ensemble and they look great on stage!
Why do you think it’s important for people to watch this piece?
Jonathan: In a growing political climate, where influences and powers are rewarded to the elite of society; the story becomes more prevalent in this day and age where the importance of unity and love amongst our fellow neighbours of the importance.
Amy: It’s a funny show, its light relief and you can escape into the world of a musical for a few hours.
How did being part of Urinetown allow for growth in your knowledge and skills?
Jonathan: As someone who has never lit a musical, working on Urinetown has taught me a lot about the craft, from how I prepare, collaborate and communicate with the teams; having this opportunity whilst still being in education is something I didn't take for granted.
Amy: Being Costume Supervisor on a musical was a different experience compared to a drama as you do have to allow for movement in the dance numbers. I was also able to think a bit outside of the box when it came to building the costumes, as there is no set period or location, we could have fun getting stuck in dirtying and breaking down costumes to make them look worn, which I haven’t got to do on my other shows so far.
Can you discuss a little about your journey into the arts, and experience with Guildhall School?
Jonathan: I've always wanted to work in theatre, however, I stumbled into wanting to be a lighting designer whilst on a shadowing placement in the West End during A Levels. The opportunity really helped open my eyes into the job and is something that's inspired me to come to Guildhall School in 2019. The experience at Guildhall School has been fantastic; it's a place for me to experiment, be bold and learn more about myself from a technical and personal perspective; having the safety net of our tutors and experience working first hand with industry professionals on productions has been invaluable to both my journey and development.
Amy: I studied BTEC production arts at Sixth Form where I loved working on costume on my school productions. I was lucky enough to get a few shadowing experiences on big touring shows. I just found Guildhall School when looking at costume courses and it was the only one that appealed to me, so I applied, and here I am 3 years later. I’ve loved being at Guildhall School and gaining experience working on so many varieties of theatre.
Where do you want to go from here?
Jonathan: I aim to want to work as a lighting designer in theatre, opera and dance.
Amy: I love working in running wardrobe and dressing; being in the wing backstage is my favourite, so I would like to go into that when I graduate in any form of live theatre. I would also really like to experience taking a show on tour.
And lastly, who inspires you and why?
Jonathan: A lot of people inspire me, however a big one is the painter, Caravaggio, who I believe is the best lighting designer to truly grace this world. His work is truly sublime and I can definitely go on for ages about it!
Amy: I think the friends I have made in my year and the years above me, seeing them get amazing jobs and do really cool things is so exciting.
Many thanks to both Jonathan and Amy for giving such a great insight into working on Urinetown, as well as any others involved with arranging this brilliant interview.
If you'd like to watch the show (which I can't wait to do myself), it is available to stream for free here from 11th-18th March: