Friday, 29 November 2019

Vikki Stone - A Songbird Speaks

Vikki Stone


Vikki Stone brings her one-woman show to the Lyric Hammersmith this Monday 2nd December. 
She and I briefly talked not just about the show, but also about her adaptation of High Fidelity, the American musical based upon Nick Hornby's classic London-centred novel and which Stone has just brought back home to the UK

JB:    Tell me about Monday's show.

VS:    Well it is nice to be able to bring it to the Lyric Hammersmith and send it off in style. The show is called Songbird and it's a piece that I have been touring this year. I've been in Edinburgh with it and Monday will be the show's last performance of this year.

I've made a conscious decision to try and make a show that feels inclusive and fun as I didn't really want anything particularly heavy at the moment. I go to the theatre a lot and I'm watching shows that are heavy into topics and while that's all fantastic, worthy and good, I really wanted to create something that feels like a bit of comedy escapism and is just there to be silly and really fun.

Songbird has often been described as joyous and hopefully it's an evening that, in the very tense times that we are in, proves to be a good old-fashioned, fun night out.

JB:    Has the impending General Election made you vary your routine or the scripts at all?

VS:    No, not really. I've decided that I wanted to feel like my show was an anti-thesis to politics. It's about life and family and loss and about my dog! It is very silly and very funny hopefully to other people's opinions.

And it’s a one woman show too, although I do come on in the first half and mess around a bit as Abanazar, before doing the second half as me!

JB:    You are quite a presence in London at the moment. Currently playing at the Turbine Theatre is the new musical High Fidelity, a show that saw you re-adapting Nick Hornby’s tale back to its Anglo / London roots. Tell me about that process. 

VS:    It was interesting as High Fidelity has been a very unique project and not something that gets asked of me very much. As a writer I was taking a pre-existing musical and a pre-existing book, with the original book having been set in London, but then the subsequent film and musical treatment were set in the States - so bringing it back across the Pond was an interesting job. My first thing was to read the book a couple of times and  listen to the audio a few times so I felt that I was dead familiar with the source material. 

When I started to add scenes or add language, most of the time it was original stuff from Nick Hornby and not actually from me. I wanted not only to remove some of the American references, but also some of the dated material. Dated in its portrayal of women, in the portrayal of the female characters and the protagonist’s attitude to sex - all of which was stuff that wasn't in Nick Hornby's original novel. 

There was a fair amount of  resistance to some of my changes that I really had to fight for. We were talking over e-mail with the licence holders and who were then taking it the writers. Not so much Tom Kitts, because the music wasn't really changed at all but with Amanda Green and David Lindsay-Abaire. It was a process that went on way after press night as we fought our corners but it has all now been resolved. 

It was quite touch and go as to whether or not we'd really be allowed to do what we wanted to do with it. There were original American lyrics about “a real go-getter, in a thrift store sweater” which the writers didn't want to change it and I was like, but we just wouldn't say "thrift store" as it immediately takes the show out of where we are. Similarly referencing "autumn" as "the fall" where again I'd say we just do not say that, it's not in our language. Even though we understand the fall, we've all seen American movies, we just don't use that phrase. 

I had to make a case for a lot of things, but I can understand this because David and Amanda had spent a lot of time and effort and years of work into making the musical, only for us to come along and go, "we're changing that, we're changing this". I can understand why they were so protective over their material.

But I am very pleased with what the English version of the musical has become.


Vikki Stone can be seen in Songbird at the Lyric Hammersmith on Monday December 2nd. For tickets click here

High Fidelity runs at the Turbine Theatre until Saturday December 7th. For tickets click here

For my 4* review of High Fidelity click here

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