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July 24, 2010

Barbershopera 11

Norwich Evening News (UK):

They have taken it to Edinburgh where it went down a storm and they have even staged it in South Korea - but Friday will be the first time Barbershoper have performed The Barber of Shavingham in the county in which it is set. Rob Castell and Tom Sadler, co-writers and performers, met and started performing together while living in Norwich and studying at UEA.

Now London-based, the pair, together with director Sarah Tipple, are seeing huge success with their a cappella comedy musicals.

“This one is all set in Norfolk, in a town called Shavingham,” explained Rob. “I used to work in Sheringham and so spent some time up there. “I know the area well and wanted to set it somewhere that had good potential for the development of characters. The story is that a Spanish matador comes to Norfolk and has all sorts of encounters.”

Rob, now a freelance musician, teacher, writer and actor, lived in Norwich for six years. While in the city he studied English Literature and International Foreign Relations at UEA, and worked at a number of different places, including Broadland District Council.

“When we were at UEA we used to go round as a barber shop quartet, doing parodies of songs and other fun things. When they threatened to close the drama studio, for example, we sang a song about it that became something of a cult hit on campus,” he remembered. “Afterwards we thought there must be something else we could do with this and Tom, who was also at UEA, came up with the idea of Barbersopera. No-one else was really doing anything like it.”

The company formed in 2007, initially performing standalone songs at OneTaste West in Hammersmith. After director Sarah joined the team, they went on to make the full-length Barbershopera, which they took it to the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe. There it performed to sell-out audiences and won two Musical Theatre Matters Awards (Best New Musical and Best Lyrics). The show was also recorded by BBC Radio 4 and broadcast in the Afternoon Play slot in May.

“All the productions have a comic element to them,” said Rob, who stars in the productions alongside Tom and fellow performers Lara Stubbs and Pete Sorell-Cameron. “They are musical theatre in one sense but the a cappella element brings something a bit different.” While also working on a new show for Edinburgh, about the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the company has been touring with The Barber of Shavingham.

To date, the production, which won critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival last year and scooped the Most Promising Lyrics at the Musical Theatre Matters Award, has been seen across UK and abroad, but never in Norfolk. “It has been appreciated in places like Northern Ireland and Wales because you don't have to know Norfolk to get all the jokes,” said Rob. “Having said that, however, I think people in Norfolk will pick up on the references more and will enjoy them.

“There's a singing group featured, for example, called the Shavingham Shantymen - those sorts of jokes will go down differently.” He went on: “There's a bit of gentle mocking of Norfolk but hopefully people will realise it is good spirited. We genuinely love Norfolk and we think the audience will enjoy the fact we poke gentle fun.” And he added: “It's a shame we haven't been able to perform this in Sheringham as well but it is nice to be coming back to Norwich and to be performing it there. “We have been keen to do this for a long time. Norwich is our spiritual family home.”

As I am in Norwich visiting family I of course had to go to the show last night. It was a lot of fun and, as a Norfolk boy, I enjoyed the local references although I did have a little trouble hearing all the lyrics due to a muddy sound system.

Posted by acapnews at July 24, 2010 4:30 AM

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