Playing nurse Vera Brittain in TocH, a World War 1 retreat house in Belgium – an extraordinary experience.
Fiona-Jane Weston about to perform at Talbot House near Ypres, Belgium.
September has been a very busy month with some real highlights!
Procucer Liz Millward and Fiona-Jane Weston in the TocH hop barn
I had the extraordinary experience of staging Wartime Women in the wonderful Talbot House (TocH) in Belgium, in the very same hop barn where the WW1 soldiers put on their own concerts. The audience were lovely and I am delighted to say I have been invited back.
Right by the entrance of the house is a friendship board used by the soldiers to leave messages for friends and family they had lost touch with in the area. Imagine how I felt when I saw the name of Gunner A. Weston! Was I walking in the footsteps of an ancestor?
September was eventful in other ways, as well. Poor Jen, my lovely MD and usual accompanist on the show got stuck in the States with a delay on her visa. It meant she was unable to take part either in Belgium or the other dates I had in theLeatherhead Theatre and The Mill Studio at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
William Godfree (very experienced pianist and composer) and Steven Luke Walker (composer of some great musicals and Head of Singing and Music at Guildford School of Acting) ably stepped into the breach, however and I am very grateful to them.
Whoever made this bomb was hopefully taller than me!
The girls with bright yellow hands were busy! These shells were only recently found in a field.
More dates are coming in. October will be spent catching up on writing and reviewing, and seeking out possibilities for investment and public grants for further research into the lives of the amazing women I play and sing about, and November has the following dates confirmed. Tickets can be booked either online or by ringing the theatres.
Dates coming up:
November 8th – Chapel Arts Centre, Bath
November 20th – Borehamwood Community Centre (matinee performance)
November 29th – appearing as guest artist in To End All Wars – an evening of poetry, prose and songs to mark the start of the Great War 1914 –18, with Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey) Martin Muncaster (former BBC broadcaster and singer in Flanders and Swann and Richard Stilgoe show) and William Godfree (photo right), in Milland, West Sussex
It would be great to see you or your friends at any of these, if you are nearby.
About Fiona Jane Weston
I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene.
I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now.
I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood.
With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response.
Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs.
2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK.
I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts.