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All The Right Notes: Amber Massie-Blomfield On What Theatre Can Learn From Live Music

Camden People's Theatre’s brand new festival All the Right Notes brings together audacious work created in the sweet spot where theatre and live music meet. Here Amber Massie-Blomfield, Executive Director of CPT, tells us all about the work you can expect to see, what live music gets right and how theatre can be inspired by it.


When was the last time you felt like buying a t-shirt with a play’s flyer design printed on it? Or getting a theatre maker’s face tattooed on your body? Or crowd surfed the stalls of the West End? Somehow, theatre companies have never quite managed to attain the rock n roll swagger and unbridled adoration experienced by their music world counterparts. But an upsurge in ‘gig theatre’ – theatre shows that can be enjoyed just as easily as rich live music experiences - suggests that might be changing.

It’s a phenomenon we’re celebrating with All the Right Notes, the UK’s first ever festival of innovative gig theatre, taking place at Camden People’s Theatre, 15 November – 3 December. Our line-up includes Doppeldanger, the brand new show from She Goat, Little Bulb’s musically multidexterous associate artists Shamira Turner and Eugenie Pastor; Rachel Mars’s Our Carnal Hearts, featuring live surround sound choral singing to explore the role envy plays in our lives; and live art DJ set The Rave Space.

Elsewhere in the programme, MothsPale Phoebe is ‘a sonic and dreamlike performances about an imagined journey to the moon’; Antosh Wojcik’s Building a Voice-Percussion Gun to Kill Glitches in Memory uses voice and a Roland TD-4KP electric drumkit to explore the effects of dementia, and Daniel Marcus Clark’s Between offers broken ballads, soundtracked stories and fingerpicked tunes. These aren’t just great theatre shows; they also offer an auditory experience to stand comparison with the great gig experiences of any music fan.

There’s much that theatre can take from musicians about cultivating an identity and a following. Artists like Chris Brett Bailey, who appears in our launch night Note Form, are already attaining the cult status of the great countercultural indie musos – he’s got a record out on vinyl, and a fanzine, after all. The double act Mingbeast make the impulse explicit – and with tongue-firmly-in-cheek – in their show Awful Things Can Happen at Any Time, in which they spend as much time worrying about their band name and fanbase as the music they make.

This isn’t a bid that artists start trashing dressing rooms or making demands for bowls of M&Ms with the brown ones picked out. But in a cultural field that can sometimes feel stuffy, it’s invigorating to see that theatre makers are co-opting some music industry cool, borrowing the directness, the unpretentiousness, and indeed the visceral thrill of live rock and rave, pop, hiphop or grime.

Musicians have something to learn from theatre makers too. All the Right Notes also features a strand of ‘theatrical music’, curated by DJ and music writer Joe Muggs. The diverse bill includes the grime artist Flowdan, spoken-word folklorists The Memory Band, and the violinist Aisha Orazbayeva in tandem with indie-theatre superstar Tim Etchells, a programme of artists that are borrowing from the theatre world in terms of crafting total audience experiences; or in the sense of narrative and storytelling present in their work. This is nothing new, of course – musicians like Bowie, Prince and Kate Bush have been doing it for years – but in a cultural landscape increasingly dominated by home entertainment experiences, it makes sense for two art forms that have such a vital sense of liveness to look at what they can learn from one another.

As somebody smart once said, “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”. Well, we’ve only bloody well got there, haven’t we?


All The Right Notes Festival runs until the 3rd of December at Camden People's Theatre

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