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INTERVIEW: Daniel and Laura Curtis

Written By Siobhan on Monday, 21 July 2014 | 20:08

Backstage Pass were delighted to catch up with acclaimed composers Daniel and Laura Curtis ahead of their concert in the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room.

When did you realise that composing was what you wanted to do?

I have always wanted to write music but never learnt to play the piano until a few years ago. Before that I would just write a tune in my head and try and get other people to put the song down on the piano for me. It was only when I started playing that I was able to convey exactly what was in mind. Laura has always dabbled into song writing by mainly as part of coursework and it took a little bit of coaxing to get her to write but we now make the perfect team. I tend to start by writing the basis of the melody and starting lyrics and then hand it over to Laura who puts her own stamp on it and changes some things here and there and then writes the introductions, instrumentals and we work on the final lyrics together.

Who inspires you musically?

We get inspired by writing for individual artists rather than by things we have seen or heard. There is nothing like writing a song knowing the voice you are working with. Musically we were both inspired by  Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Alan Menken.

What piece of music are you proudest of?

It is a tough call but it would have to go to ‘A Miner’s Song’ because of the blood, sweat and tears that went into making the song. In the end we had a brass band, three choirs, 200 school children and over 20 celebrities from Wales take part including, Michael Sheen, Jonathan Pryce, Paul Potts, Aled Jones, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd, John Owen-Jones and the boxer Joe Calzaghe. We also able to use the voice of Richard Burton with the kind permission of the Dick Cavett show. It was a logistical nightmare and it all started when we took a piano down Big Pit in Blaenafon to perform a special concert to remember those would have lost their lives as a result of working in coal mines. The song was launched before the Wales vs England game at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 2013. The song really does mean a lot to us. The video is still proving to be very popular.

Your album - 'Love on 42nd Street' - was released to raise money for Children in Need, how did you become involved with the charity?

The charity do so much incredible work across the United Kingdom. and help so many people We always watch the appeal show every year but have wanted to raise money for the charity for a long time. This seemed like the perfect opportunity and it has been a real pleasure to work with the charity. We hope to continue to raise money with future projects.

The album centres around the theme of love, where did you draw inspirations from?

On Laura’s first visit to New York City we spent the first few days walking pretty much everywhere and on the last few days Laura’s feet were not doing so good so we found ourselves stopping at lots of random places around the city. It is only when you slow down in a fast paced city that you really see what is happening all around you. We saw people new romances, mothers with their newborn babies and at the 911 Memorial such sad stories of grief that will live forever in the memory. We decided that we like to write an album that explored all the different kinds of love and also use different styles of music to tell that story. So we really have our favourite city to thank for the inspiration.

You're about to embark on a concert in the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room. What can the audience expect from the night?

They can expect to hear all the songs from our album ‘Love on 42nd Street’ plus a number of new songs that will be premiered for the very first time on the evening. We have a fantastic live band joining us and some incredible artists that we are really excited to work with. We want people to go away with a smile on their face and feel like they were part of an event rather than just a concert.

Are you working on any future projects that you can tell us about?

Next up for us is the release of ‘When You Smile’ our song with Broadway star Laura Osnes which comes out across the world on the 10th August. We are working on some other singles to release later in the year and a few musical concepts. So lots to keep us very busy!

Tickets for 'The Songs of Daniel and Laura Curtis' can be purchased via the Royal Albert Hall website . To find out more about their upcoming projects check out their website or follow them on twitter @danlauracurtis

Photo Feature: Jools Holland, Marc Almond, Melanie C, Ruby Turner, Nell Bryden - Kew the Music 2014

Written By Steve Stubbs on Saturday, 19 July 2014 | 11:53

Kew the Music
July 18th 2014

Another superb night of music on yet another glorious Summer's evening. Support from Nell Bryden, with headliners Jools Holland & his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, with special guests Marc Almond, Melanie C and Ruby Turner... Fabulous stuff.

Photos Below on facebook, go and hit Like if you wish and follow the page.

Photo Feature: Kew the Music 17th July 2014 - Ben Montague, The Magnets, Bjorn Again

Written By Steve Stubbs on Friday, 18 July 2014 | 09:47

Kew The Music
Bjorn Again
17th July 2014

On the hottest day of the year so far, what better way to spend the evening than nibbling on a picnic, drinking and dancing to some rather 'kew'l music!

An audience of all ages from 4 to 94 enjoyed the show last night - a great set from Ben Montague started of proceedings, with his divine vocals and cool guitar playing. The Magnets followed, I'd never seen them before, but they were fabulous - a cross between The Overtones and The Vocal Orchestra - all sounds from their mouths with beat-boxing drums, and all other instruments you can imagine.

Bjorn Again don't really need an introduction - they always put on a fab show and tonight was no different, playing all the hits from Abba, the whole crowd were up on their feet singing and dancing away. And with a firework finale, what a lovely way to end the evening full of family fun for everyone.

Enjoy a few of the photos from the evening, and if you see yourself in the crowd pics, then do tag yourself!

Comedy Review: Tim Minchin, Gina Yashere, Nina Conti, Milton Jones - BST Hyde Park ✭✭✭✭

Written By Steve Stubbs on Monday, 14 July 2014 | 13:48

Tim Minchin, Gina Yashere
Nina Conti, Milton Jones
Tim Minchin on stage at Hyde Park
Photo by Sonny McCartney/BST Hyde Park Facebook Page
BST Hyde Park

Review by Christina Benneworth

Thursday 10th July 2014: Luckily the clouds seemed to stay away from Hyde Park for the evening and we enjoyed a beautiful evening with a lovely sunset.

Taking to the stage for the comedy night at British Summer Time was Gina Yashere, Pajama Men, Nina Conti, Milton Jones and headline Tim Minchin.

The first act to be introduced to the stage was Gina Yashere, never the one to shy away from delicate subjects, Yashere was a great start to the night. The cameras occasionally cutting to the crowds; which normally meant an audience member would give a cheeky wink which would lead to laughs from the crowd, Yashere turned this to advantage and used it for audience interaction. Yashere was a great crowd warmer.

Nina Conti
Photo by Sonny McCartney/BST Hyde Park Facebook Page
Compering on the night was Jasper Carrot, he managed to get a few jokes in between the quick change over between acts.

Nina Conti, was hysterical, I never know what to expect from ventriloquists but there was no disappointment. What was particularly impressive was the fact that her sidekick monkey managed to sing a little bit of opera, it was physically impressive. The sarcastic tones from her sidekick monkey and the fact that Nina Conti seems genuinely shocked by what her alter ego comes out with, proves extremely entertaining. Another success during her short 15 minute slot was the regular human puppet segment, the crowd still seem to love this and it is genuinely hilarious. Nina Conti is so good at what she does you seem to forget how hard the art of ventriloquism is.

Milton Jones
Photo by Sonny McCartney/BST Hyde Park Facebook Page
Milton Jones is old school comedy, with his perfectly timed one-liners he was a welcome addition to this line-up. You can’t help but laugh at his jokes even if they might be a tad cliché. Once again just like Nina Conti it is quite easy to forget that it is actually quite difficult to pull this type of comedy off, but Jones does it so well.

There was little doubt who the crowd were here to see, as soon as headline act Tim Minchin took the stage there seemed to be an uplift in atmosphere. ‘I hope you weren’t expecting new material’, he smiled and launched into ‘Rock N Roll Nerd’. Minchin seems to be a master of his facial expressions, he seems to get a laugh from just pulling a face. Clearly there were a lot of fans in the crowd that knew the majority of the songs, he even pleaded to the crowd when singing ‘Prejudice’ not to ruin it for the people in the crowd who perhaps hadn’t heard it before. If you haven’t heard it before I suggest you have a listen.

Tim Minchin took it to a serious place, ‘I travel the world talking about issues close to my heart’, ‘hopefully we won’t offend anyone’, then quite simply sings a song called ‘Cheese’. If you look past the comedy you have to take a second to actually look at the talent this man possesses, it’s quite amazing to watch him on stage.

We were treated to an encore of a song from his potential Groundhog Day musical along with ‘When I Grow Up’ from the musical Maltida. Another glimpse at the talent that this man has.

I can’t help that feel that the evening was a little rushed, with acts only having a 15 minute slot. This was further acknowledged with Tim Minchin tweeting that he was on earlier than planned and was only booked for a 35 minute slot, even though he stayed for 50 minutes. Definitely goes to show a true showman, he tried not to leave his fans disappointed.

However even with the quick finish the evening itself was a welcome and funny experience.

Four stars ✭✭✭✭

Photo Feature: Tom Jones, Boyzone and Little Mix - BST Hyde Park

Tom Jones, Boyzone and Little Mix 

BST Hyde Park

Thank goodness the sun was shining to draw the BST Hyde Park season to a close for another year.

With a very energetic and rousing set from Little Mix, followed by a crowd pleasing performance from Boyzone, the night belonged to the legend that is Sir Tom Jones! Woah, what a voice, there's no denying he is at the top of his game.

Have a browse through our photos, there are some crowd shots in the Tom Jones album over on Facebook, so feel free to tag yourself if you are in them.

Thanks BST Hyde Park, a fabulous end to another great season.

Gig Review: Kristin Chenoweth - Royal Albert Hall ✭✭✭✭✭

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth
photo from BroadwayWorld
Royal Albert Hall

Saturday 12th July 2014: Well well well, who would have thought it? Kristin Chenoweth playing her first solo UK gig at the Royal Albert Hall - what a fabulous evening!

After a couple of delays in getting over here previously (a knock to the head and visa problems), Kristin took the stage and gave us an evening of powerful performances embellished with a touch of broadway pzazz! From the moment she walked out on stage, you knew you were in for a treat.

We are taken through a montage of video clips highlighting her illustrious career so far, from Wicked to Glee, and the evening was filled with plenty of punch and stunning performances of songs that mean not only something to her, but to us the audience also. With her tiny frame yet powerful operatic qualities, Kristin's voice is just mind-blowing, her vocals glide over the top of the orchestrations like a hot knife through butter, leaving you gasping for more.

There were many highlights in the show, lots of funny anecdotes ranging from lyric changes in A Chorus Line to "Boobs and Butt", to her time meeting The Queen at Buckingham Palace, all told Kristin's enviable Oklahoman charm.

All the songs chosen were a huge delight to listen to, with tracks from A Chorus Line, Phantom, Cabaret, The Wizard of Oz and Les Miserables to name a few. Peter Lockyer, the current Jean Valjean in Les Mis came on for a duet of 'One Less bell to Answer', originally sung on Glee. Alison Jiear from Jerry Springer the Opera also appeared for a duet of 'Enough is Enough'. Dolly Parton also made an appearance in a funny VT reel.

But a huge highlight of the evening was an amazing duet between Kristin and Kerry Ellis, singing 'For Good' from Wicked. This brought the audience to their feet for the first time, and this was not the last ovation of the evening by no means, as at the end of the night we were longing for more.

Ending with 'I Will Always Love You', Kristin showed how adaptable her voice is, how she can act through any part, and has gone to show what we already know... Kristin is a Tony and Emmy Award winning entertainer, and will always be welcome on any stage or screen with her phenomenal voice.

Five Stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Full cast announced for JERSEY BOYS UK & Ireland Tour


The producers of the UK and Irish tour of the Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical JERSEY BOYS, are delighted to announce the full cast joining previously announced West End star Tim Driesen as Frankie Valli.

Stephen Webb, Sam Ferriday and Lewis Griffiths will star as Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi respectively.  Matt Corner will play the role of Frankie Valli at certain performances. Also in the cast will be Sean Kingsley as Gyp DeCarlo, Matt Gillett as Bob Crewe, Nathaniel Morrison as Barry Belson, Dominic Smith as Norm Waxman, Damian Buhagiar as Joey Pesci, Henry Davis as Hank Majewski, Leanne Garretty as Lorraine, Amelia Adams-Pearce as Mary Delgado and Sinead Long as Francine, with Dan Krikler, Dayle Hodge, Luke Morton and Charlie Allen.

JERSEY BOYS has been seen by over 19 million people worldwide and is firmly established as one of the West End's longest running and most popular shows, where it continues to play at its new home of the Piccadilly Theatre.

JERSEY BOYS is the remarkable true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four boys from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 175 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.  The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Winner of Broadway’s Tony, London’s Olivier and Australia’s Helpmann Awards for Best New Musical, JERSEY BOYS is the winner of 55 major awards worldwide, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.  As well as still running on Broadway and in the West End, JERSEY BOYS can be seen in Las Vegas, across the United States on its US National Tour and in the Netherlands.

JERSEY BOYS is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe.  The UK Tour will be staged by the entire original Broadway creative team, led by director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, with scenic design by Klara Zieglerova, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting by Howell Binkley, sound by Steve Canyon Kennedy and projections design by Michael Clark.  The orchestrations are by Steve Orich and the music supervision and vocal arrangements by Ron Melrose. 

The UK and Irish Tour of JERSEY BOYS is produced by Dodger Theatricals, David Ian / Michael Watt and Ambassador Theatre Group, with Joseph J. Grano, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group, in association with Latitude Link, Rick Steiner, DHST Inc.

For further details, please visit


4 September – 4 October    
Manchester Palace 
0844 871 3019
Now on Sale

8 – 25 October
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Stoke Regent Theatre
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11 – 22 November
Hull New Theatre
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Sunderland Empire
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9 December – 3 January 2015                   
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0844 871 3011 
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20 – 31 January                                         
Canterbury Marlowe Theatre                       
01227 787787                    
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3 – 14 February                                         
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652
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17 – 28 February                                       
Southend Cliffs Pavilion                                   
01702 351135
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3 – 14 March                                              
Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre        
01224 641122
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17 – 28 March                                           
Woking New Victoria                           
0844 871 7645
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1 – 18 April                                                
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0818 719 377
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12 – 23 May                                               
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26 May – 13 June                                      
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On Sale 29 August 2014

23 June – 4 July                                        
Liverpool Empire                                    
0844 871 3017
On Sale soon

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Further dates to be added.

Theatre Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Gielgud Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Siobhan (Sarah Woodward) and Christopher Boone (Graham Butler)
photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg
Gielgud Theatre

After a short break from finishing it's run in the Apollo, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is back on the West End stage at the neighbouring Gielgud Theatre

The story is about 15-year-old Christopher, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who enjoys solving problems and has a gift for Maths, despite his everyday struggles with social interaction. Upon discovering a dead dog in the front garden of a neighbour’s house, he goes on a quest to solve the mystery, uncovering family secrets along the way.

Christopher Boone (Graham Butler) and cast
photo by Brinkhoff Mögenburg
Mark Haddon's original book has been adapted to the stage in a remarkable way. Visually, the set and soundtrack are fantastic, lots of projection that don't hinder the action, they tell the story too of this physically and challenging piece. Not only are there hidden compartments in the set, it is striking to see the set come towards the audience giving that enclosed feel especially for the tube station scene, where Christopher has a close call on the tracks.

The cast do a stellar job, with Sarah Woodward playing Siobhan, Christopher's teacher who narrates throughout, Nicolas Tennant and Emily Joyce play Ed and Judy respectively, bringing warmth and compassion to the roles of Christopher's father and mother.

A truly standout performance though comes from Christopher himself - Graham Butler. What an amazing actor! This is an enormously demanding role, which has the audience engaged throughout. The amount of stage direction to remember, the laying of props, the emotional monologues, well, everything about his performance is stunning.

There's not much else I can say really, except that this has got to be one of the most amazing shows I have seen in a very long time. This is one of those reviews where if I say too much, it will spoil it for you if you are going, as this really is a piece of breath-taking theatre.

Miss this at your peril, it is an absolute must-see!

Five stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Listings information

Address:                          Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6AR
Dates:                              from 24 June 2014 – 14 February 2015
Performances:                Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
                                      Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm
Ticket prices:                 15 - £57.50 (100 seats at £15 for every performance)
                                      An allocation of £15 Day Seats will be available for every
                                      performance from the Gielgud Theatre box office from 10am
Box Office:                   National Theatre Box Office No booking fee
Telephone 020 7452 3000 
                                     Gielgud Theatre Box Office No booking fee
Telephone 0844 482 5130

INTERVIEW: Alexander S Bermange

Written By Lisa Davidson on Wednesday, 9 July 2014 | 21:30

Interview by Siobhan Brennan

Alexander S. Bermange is a composer and lyricist who has carved out a successful career in London’s West End and BBC Radio. Backstage Pass recently caught up with him to talk past, present and future.

You staged your first musical Nessie while still in school so it's clear that writing has been a big part of your life from a young age. Who were some of your musical influences growing up?

My parents have always been great music lovers and listened to a wide variety of genres, so there was always a lot of music around me when I was growing up. I particularly latched onto musical theatre, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice being my earliest inspirations. But as I was also classically trained as a pianist and viola player, I was also gaining an appreciation of the work of the classical greats.

What's been your proudest moment as a writer so far?

I'm generally not one to feel pride, as I tend to always be looking for the next mountain to climb rather than basking in the pleasure of feeling I have ticked an achievement off my list. But particular milestones that spring immediately to mind would be, for example, having my first West End production, winning my first award, and getting to work with performers who I have dreamed of working with (see below!). But in all of these cases, and others, even when the realisation of the goal was looking likely, or even certain, I have always thought to myself, "I'll believe it when I see it", and have never "counted my chickens", and so that, if nothing else, would always keep potential feelings of pride at bay!

You're presently working on a recording of your musical, The Route To Happiness with Kerry Ellis, Ben Forster and Louise Dearman - how would you describe the storyline?

I'd describe it as following the interweaving and parallel experiences of those three present-day Londoners in pursuit of their respective dreams.

How did you decide on the vocalists for the recording?

We had a meeting in which we set out to agree on the three vocalists who we believed would best suit the material, whose voices we thought would go well together, and whose work we had previously loved. And fortunately our top three choices said yes!

If you could choose any singer, living or dead, to record one of your songs who would you choose and which song would you like them to perform and why?

I'm a big fan of the Muppets, so any or all of them would have to go at the top of my list! Even if there wasn't a number in my body of work deemed to be suitable, needless to say I'd be only too happy to create something especially for them!

You're currently touring the country with Murder On Air, how did you become involved with the show?

Six and a half years ago I had a call from producer Bill Kenwright's office, asking me if I would compose the music for the half a dozen songs in The Yellow Iris (one of the three plays presented under the umbrella of Murder on Air). The original music had long been lost (though the lyrics had survived) and the team had a specific idea of the type of compositions they wanted. Above all they were eager for them to be original, yet sound true to the period. Originally the show was just intended to have a two week run in Windsor. But it's been touring the country, on and off, with an impressive array of A-list stars, ever since.

As well as playing piano you also get to play the 'Foley artist' - can you tell us what that entails?

It involves creating all of the sound effects as they used to be done, which is great fun! Sometimes that simply involves reproducing a sound (like drawing a curtain, lighting a match, or scribbling something down), but frequently it entails doing something completely different in order to create a particular sound – which can involve anything from paper bags to old reel-to-reel tape to cabbages!

What can we expect next from you?

Well, Murder on Air is touring until the autumn, and I follow that – on 28th November – with a show at the Pheasantry. I have long written and performed comic songs for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service (and for other purposes!), and have recently started performing such songs of mine live. After some successful performances at the St James Studio, I have devised a fresh show for the Pheasantry in which I, and some special guest leading West End artists, present an evening comprising both my newest and my best-loved comedic numbers.

Murder on Air runs from 9th-12th July at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow and tickets can be booked via their website. To find out more and his his upcoming  projects visit his website or follow him on Twitter @Bermange

Theatre Review: Murder on Air - Theatre Royal, Glasgow ✭✭✭

Review by Danielle Shields

Murder on Air, the Agatha Christie Theatre Company’s latest production, revives their 2008 performance which retells three of Agatha Christie’s radio plays: Personal Call, The Yellow Iris and Butter in a Lordly Dish. The concept is to recreate how these tales were first told during their premiere BBC broadcasts with the actors (including special Glaswegian guests Barbara Rafferty and Tony Roper) standing in a chorus line reading their script while a Foley Artist (Alexander S Bermange) provides live sound effects. 

Personal Call is a haunting affair for one man, James Brent, who receives a call from a woman he knows to be dead. Poirot attends an anniversary party hosted by a wealthy American after he obtains a tip-off that murder is on the house in The Yellow Iris. The final play, Butter in a Lordly Dish, sees Sir Luke Enderby K.C pay his price for a long stint of infidelity. 

For us Scots, and for those who are aware of the long running Glaswegian sitcom, Rab C. Nesbitt, Murder on Air is also an exciting event heralding the return of Barbara Rafferty and Tony Roper, who notably played husband and wife duo Ella and Jamesie Cotter. The chemistry between them is still as vibrant as ever, even when they are portraying lovers to killers. 

Placed in a live studio setting, Murder on Air is a fresh experience which proves the amount of work invested into radio plays. The production is made to appear as though the cast haven’t rehearsed a dime, but it runs so smoothly that for the audience it feels as though they have memorised their lines, despite the script being right in front of their eyes.

You have to respect the cast in a production like this. Two of the most powerful tools they utilise as actors for the theatre are stripped away in this drama: movement and facial emotion. This means they are solely left with their vocal chords to not tell us the story, but for them to be the story. Here we are able to witness that actors, even in the radio medium, do enjoy transforming their entire persona into their selected character. Despite not being able to dance as their character across their stage, the actors can still show us a glimmer of their character’s traits, to Roper’s enjoyment when he impersonates Poirot by shuffling towards the microphone. 

The best element of this production (which wouldn’t be witnessed in a theatre play) is the live sound effects crafted by Foley Artist, Alexander S. Bermange. From the relentless telephone ringing to the slippage of a glass; it is a fun spectacle that creates the majority of the humour. The performance would be severely lacking if it we didn’t have the chance to watch these sounds being created simultaneously to the dialogue. 

Murder on Air is a nostalgic performance of three radio plays from the Queen of Crime brought to life by a talented cast, and, for our Scottish eyes only, the reunion of two much loved actors, Rafferty and Roper.

Murder on Air is at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 12th of July.

Interview with Tony Roper

Interview with Alexander S Bermange

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