If you’re watching a What We Did Next production and a call goes out for a doctor in the house, you should be fine.
Arguably the most exciting exciting non-professional theatre company working in the city at the moment, WWDN is largely comprised of university graduates, who no longer able to partake in musical theatre and drama societies on campus, set up their own. This includes nine former medical students who now work at hospitals across the region – all ex-members of doctors-only theatre groups while at uni, because of the widely differing timetables to other undergrads.
Established in 2008, WWDN has been ahead of the curve in reviving modern musical theatre shows that have in many cases gone on to be discovered anew by bigger professional companies, such as Company, Rent, The Last 5 Years and Spring Awakening. Last year’s winter show Into the Woods upped the ante again; and next week they launch their latest production, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.
Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens was first performed in New York in 1989, and is a collection of monologues from a wide variety of characters who lived with and died of AIDS.
With 36 roles to cast it has been the biggest production to date for the company, and it has attracted a number of professional actors alongside WWDN members. It is thought to be the first production of the show on Merseyside for at least ten years, and the performances, which are supporting local AIDS charity Sahir House, have been deliberately scheduled to take place near World AIDS Day (December 1).
“We had been talking about doing this show for a couple of years,” said producer Zoe Thirsk. “The soundtrack is beautiful, and when we got hold of the script, we realised it was something we could do.”
As such, and as intended, the call for actors attracted a wide range of professional and non-professional performers, including Anthony Proctor, Impropriety comics Trevor Fleming and Owen Scrivens, city steampunk icon Mycroft Milverton, WWDN founder Jamie Barfield and familiar company members including Jenny Martyn, Elen Royles and Shaun Holdom-Eyles.
“People have been drawn to taking part in the show first, rather than the company, and we made the show the selling point. With this show, we needed such a broad range of people so we looked a lot wider and targeted different groups – we have a lot of improvisers and comedians this time,” said Zoe.
“Despite the subject matter it’s not a morbid show. There are some really funny parts and some that are really sad; the idea is it is a rollercoaster of emotions, something you don’t really have time to think about until much later,” says director Mark Rawle. A doctor by day, Liverpool audiences may recognise him from previous WWDN productions as well as his work with comedy group Impropriety (he had a couple of roles in this year’s 33 hour Improvathon). “It’s a very different show but we hope it’ll still appeal to the people who came to see Into the Woods.”
WWDN has never received funding and covers its costs with ticket sales, a small membership fee and the proceeds of events like open mic nights (they can regularly be found at the Clove Hitch belting out a few show tunes). No-one is paid, and any profits are used for later produtions. It has been a professional stepping stone for members including Gabby Broomes, who went on to become a cast member in this year’s UK tour of Avenue Q and will be Little Inez in the next national tour of Hairspray.
Zoe says: “What We Did Next has kept a lot of us in Liverpool as the company has grown, and hopefully that’s a good thing – it has been worth our while to stick around and it has become a massive project all year round.”
The next WWDN show will be Batboy in spring 2013. But for now, don’t miss Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens which can be seen this week from November 22 to 24 at the Iosis Studio on Upper Parliament Street (in the Elevator Studios building). Tickets are £10, available from their website.