Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Eastbourne Success

Thank you Eastbourne and The Royal Hippodrome Theatre!

What a fabulous audience we had at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne – a standing ovation for Steve Royle and the cast. Were also delighted to discover that the legend Roy Hudd was in the audience along with his lovely wife, Debbie. They met all the cast afterwards and were full of praise for the play which was a real accolade indeed. It was the icing and the cherry on the cake!

Thanks also to everyone at the British Music Hall Society for their help and for allowing us to follow your Day by the Sea event to make it a Weekend by the Sea of music hall! Thanks also to Alex and all the brilliant back stage staff and front of house gang at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre for making us so welcome and supporting us so wonderfully.

Lou Steggals, Steve Royle, Nicole Violet,

Andy Cooke & Neil Rowland

Roy Hudd & Steve Royle

Neil Rowland, Roy Hudd, Debbie Hudd & Steve Royle

      

Royal Hippodrome ready for Dan Leno – Andy Cooke & Roy Hudd

      

Roy Hudd with Playwright David Slattery-Christy & Steve Royle

 

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Reviews are in…

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle supported by a fabulous cast. Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle at Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –
Funnyman Steve Royle from BBC Radio Lancashire and Phoenix Nights will lead the cast in the world premiere of new play Dan Leno: A Royal Jester as part of this year’s Lytham Festival celebrations.
The exciting new play, which charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian, will take place at Lytham’s Wesley Hall Theatre from Wednesday July 18th to Sunday 22nd.
Written & Directed By
David Slattery-Christy
This exciting new play charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian. He then went on to become a huge celebrity in the London theatres and established his name as the pre-eminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some iconic dame roles, and became a favourite of King Edward VII and the Royal family.
Playwright David Slattery-Christy said: “It’s exciting to bring another new play to the Lytham Festival as an official event. This play has been in my head for a long time – but it wasn’t until I saw Steve Royle’s performance in a show last year that I finally discovered an artist who I felt could portray Dan Leno and his comedy. Dan’s story is funny and sad in equal measure – and the play also includes some classic music-hall songs of the period.”
“I am flattered and thrilled to be asked to play this legendary music-hall star,” said Steve Royle, adding, “Dan Leno was as passionate about pantomime as I am and hopefully I will be able to do him justice? I began as an actor with Oldham Theatre Workshop 30 years ago and I look forward to taking on the role with excitement and fear in equal measure.”
The play will run from Wednesday 18th July until Sunday 22nd July at the Wesley Hall Theatre, Methodist Church, Park & Westby St, Lytham FY8 5LU. Evenings Weds to Sat at 7.30pm. Matinees Fri & Sun at 2pm. Tickets from £8. Day Seats £10. Further casting to be announced.
Available for interviews and features. Please call David Slattery-Christy on
Cast
Steve RoyleDan Leno
Andy CookeDoctor Savage / Henry Beerbohm Tree
Jordan KennedyHenry Wild Galvin (Dan’s brother)
Laura NicolLydia Leno (Dan’s wife)
Louise SteggalsNurse Kelly
The play includes original Dan Leno character monologues and
popular music hall songs of the period.
Choreography: Debra Smyth       Musical Director: Darren McNeil
Costumes: Gillian Wood            Sound Design: David Brown
Set Design & Construction: Graham Greenwood & Christyplays
Lighting: Dan Creasey & Congo Design
Christyplays is a cooperative of North West based professionals.
 
Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904 – was born in London into an impoverished music-hall family. His parents worked the northern music-halls of Manchester and Lancashire. His father died when he was four and his mother remarried. Dan spent much of his childhood performing with his family and brother billed as ‘The Great Little Lenos’. It was in Lancashire he was taught to clog dance and became a champion. After an accident on stage when he hurt his back be moved his performance away from tumbling and contortion and developed as a patter singer and comedian – it was this development that led him to create gossipy comic male and female characters that his audiences loved. Returning to London he became a big star of the pre-eminent theatres and went on to also star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some memorable pantomime roles such as Mother Goose. His health deteriortated and he began to become irrational and forgetting his lines. He was thought to be insane, and spent time in the Camberwell Asylum, but it is now widely accepted that he was suffering from a brain tumour that changed his personality and eventually killed him at the young age of 43.

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester!

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester!

A New Play in Two Acts

By David Slattery-Christy

Delighted to announce that this play will receive its world premiere at this year’s Lytham Festival. 18 – 22 July 2018 at the Wesley Hall Theatre, Westby Street Lytham.

More Details and Casting Coming Soon. You will be in for a Royle Treat!

Delighted to say I am working on a new play based on the life and career of the legendary Victorian music-hall and Drury Lane pantomime star Dan Leno. It is something that has been in my mind for more than 25 years now. Even before that I had read much about, and become facinated by, the legend that was Dan Leno.

During the mid 1990’s I was lucky to have been given access to the private archive at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to research material to do with Novello. One afternoon whilst there I was working away and on the far side of the room I heard the sound of papers falling from a shelf. Crossing the room I remember seeing the smiling face of Dan Leno staring back at me from an old publicity photograph. On further inspection I realised that the papers that had fallen were a part of piles of old contracts and programnmes and photographs of Dan Leno’s time at Drury Lane from 1888 to 1903 – when he appeared in the annual pantomimes and created some great and unique dame roles.

That experience has stayed with me all these years and actually brings a chill to my bones when I think of it now. How odd that those particular papers should of their own accord slip off the shelf and draw my attention? That said, it is common knowledge at Drury Lane that Dan makes himself known at times either back stage in the dressing room areas or in the wings on first nights – especially when he wants to help someone. They say that if you see him in the wings on a first night it means the show will be a hit. The picture I have attached to this article is the image of Dan Leno that smiled back at me that day – it shows him as Sister Anne in the pantomime Bluebeard at Drury Lane 1901.

From then on I have thought I must write a play. Recently I saw a pantomime and finally saw a performer who could play Dan Leno and bring all his facial, physical and comedic talents and give us a glimpse again of the greatness that was Dan Leno. It was like the final piece of a jigsaw for me – one that has enabled me to now set about the task of writing the play.

Dan Leno

(George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904

                                                             

Elvira & I – Puccini’s Scandalous Passions! “Excellent…” BBC Radio Lancashire

“Excellent writing and cast…” BBC Radio Lancashire

 

“Every aspect of the production – the writing, the casting and performances, the set, the stage direction, the venue. Everything was wonderful. I feel privelidged to have been there to witness it and the great work that went behind it. It left a strong impression on me, like I’d experienced what living inside Puccini’s world must have been like…what an accomplishment…”

Ed Christiano

 

4 Star Review by Colin Davies – 4 August 2017

“The life of Giacomo Puccini is one full of scandal and passion. His relationship with Elvira one of volatile jealousy and love. A couple that were as bad for each other as they were good. Puccini the maestro with his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” status and life style. Elvira, considered common and not good enough for Giacomo, seen as the almost Yoko Ono character by the opera set.

Elvira and I, a new play by the highly respected playwright David Slattery Christy. Based on the research David has done for a Puccini biography, the play documents the life of these 2 characters from Puccini trying to rid his mind of the turmoil caused by writing Tosca by creating the much loved Madam Butterfly, through to his death, via the scandals that plagued his life. It brings forth a much better understanding of  Elvira’s role in his work and how, tortured by what nowadays we would understand as mental illness, she would descend in to the darkness of green eyed rage as her absolute love flirted with the maids and went about his not so secret affairs.

Christy’s script is solid. The dialogue is apt for the time. I believe Puccini was a massive fan of the F word and SH word. Though, in the heat of an argument Elvira would have the vocabulary of a sailor as well. The author’s knowledge and passion for the subject matter is evident in the telling of the story. All the details are there to help the audience understand which period of their life we had reached. The characters are written in a believable way that allow the performers to wear them rather than just play them. It is a play that has been crafted rather than assembled.

The actors do a great job at breathing life into Christy’ words. Riccardo Provenzano who plays Puccini may not sound Italian on stage (despite his name) however, his portrayal of a passionate artist is spot on. When he talks about his work, you can feel a real love for it, as if Puccini had himself given him director’s notes.

Riccardo Provenzano as Giacomo Puccini

Louise Steggals as Elvira does a great job with all the emotions she has to play. In one of the more subtle moments we see her, without words, become more jealous, and more enraged as Giacomo tells the story of Madam Butterfly’s final act. This is something I advise you look out for. It is sometimes too easy to be drawn to the one delivering the dialogue and miss beautiful moments such as this.

Susan Woodard (Iginia Puccini), Steve Deveney (Luigi Illica), Laura Nicol (Ida Bontura Razzi) and Jessica Kuiper (Doria Manfredi) all put in strong performances that fill out a rich tapestry of family and friendship. This interplay between them all has chemistry and you can see how much it means to them to deliver a performance. Every member of the cast hits the right notes with none of them being any weaker than another. This can only happen with hard work, dedication and respect for an audience.

Steve Deveney, Susan Woodard, Riccardo Provenzano, Louise Steggals, Jessica Kuiper and Laura Nicol

I have to mention the direction from Debra Smyth. Her understanding of the material is obvious. She lets her actors flow and move. In fact the use of the stage and auditorium is fantastic. The impressive set and costumes, created with advice from the Hollywood experienced Gillian Wood, is used to the maximum effect. Debra has her cast use every inch of the stage with a number of conversations continuing as the characters walk towards the lake, located behind the audience. It’s a bold step to allow your players to walk through the stalls as if it was an extension of the stage. This she does with aplomb.”

Colin Davies – AltBlackpool – 4 August 2017

Directed by Debra Smyth & David Slattery-Christy

Produced by Christyplays

Sound Design by David Brown

Lighting by Dan Creasey & Congo Design

Set by Christyplays

Costume Advisor – Gillian Wood

Thanks to Darren Mcneil for help with piano music for the play

Set Construction by Graham Greenwood

Special thanks to our costume sponsors – without whom this production would not have been possible.

Shirley Burrows, Jose Campbell, Jane Cross, Jim Cross, Catherine Currie, Nicki & Andy Grundy, Raymond Langford-Jones, Lesley Yalcin.

      

          

  

  

  

     

Novello New Year!

Well, what a brilliant Christmas and New Year it has been for Ivor Novello! They say everything comes in threes, and it seem that is exactly what happened.

The BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week programmes dedicated to Ivor were brilliant with lots of new recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra, solos by @SimonLepper and @KittyWhateley and recordings by the lovely Marylin Hill Smith to name a few. There were also brilliant sections with Billy Differ (Operations Manager for Sir Cameron Mackintosh) in Novello’s old flat, and also with Rosy Runciman who is the archivist for Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

One listener said: “Sensitively researched life story combined with location insights AND the music – worth the @BBC licence fee on its own.” Another said: “@BBCRadio3 @DSCAuthor “Ivor Novello” Awarded the best @BBCRadio3 programme of the year!”

In addition to this I was delighted to release a 10th Anniversary edition of my Novello biography to tie in with the BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week series. As I was guest of the week for the programmes, it seemed fitting and timely.  ‘Ivor Novello – In Search of Ruritania‘  now available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Excellent and encouraging 5 star reviews!

January sees the publication of The Oxford Handbook of The British Musical – So thrilled that my Ivor Novello biography – In Search of Ruritania – informed this study and is listed in the reference and bibliography section. Thanks to Stewart Nicholls who wrote the section on operetta that includes Novello.

 

I came across this portrait of Novello by Emile Veresmith. It was painted in 1924 and captures him in quite a dark way – I wonder if the artist caught the melancholy and depression that so haunted Novello at times. Food for thought!

 

Well that’s all for now. Not sure if/when the recordings made by the BBC Concert orchestra will be available – but for those who have asked I will let you know if I hear anything from the BBC regarding this. Thank you to Donald Macleod and producer Luke Whitlock at BBC Radio 3.

Happy New Year to all –

New Edition of Novello biography In Search of Ruritania

I am delighted to announce that a brand new 3rd edition of my Ivor Novello biography – In Search of Ruritania – will be released for Christmas 2016. The book will be updated, new information added, along with extra images to celebrate its 10th birthday. It will be available in Paperback and Kindle editions.

It will tie in with the broadcast by BBC Radio 3 –  and their Composer of the Week dedicated to Novello – that I worked as  Novello consultant on, and will be guest interviewee for the week. Presented by Donald Macleod and Produced by Luke Whitlock for the BBC. Due to be broadcast on Boxing Day 2016 for five days.

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ivor novello portrait

Ivor Novello Portrait

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Composer of the Week

Delighted to report that BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week are paying tribute to Ivor Novello with a series of five hour long programmes exploring his life and music – with many new recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

I have been delighted to help the producer Luke Whitlock with the script for the five programmes, and also contribute to the programme by being interviewed by Donald Macleod. Also featured are Rosy Runciman, the archivist for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres and Billy Differ, also from Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. It will be a truly wonderful programme and a fitting tribute to Novello who has never previously featured on the programme in its 70 year history.

We had a lovely day at Broadcasting House, The Novello Theatre and also in the Flat atop the Novello Theatre where Novello lived from 1913 until his death in 1951.

The programmes go out from 26th to 30th December 2016 – a real Christmas Special from BBC Radio 3!

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