Starbuck Theatre Company was established in September 2014 and is run by Artistic Director, Sarah Pavlovs. The company is an exciting Midland’s based Theatre Company, with a Youth Theatre Company for 4-21 years old, which trains in acting and musical theatre in Worcestershire.
I went to see their production of Next Thing You Know which was performed by the adult section of the company. I’d seen them before in a performance of The Guide To Being Single, a new musical comedy which had a similar storyline to this one.
Next Thing You Know wakes you up to the reality that life passes by within a moment. Before you know it, you’ve got a full-time job, a partner who wants to settle down and the prospect of hangovers that last a lifetime. The story follows Waverly, played by Sarah Pavlovs herself who has just recently got a promotion from the law firm she works at. As a result, she’s in a position where her acting career could be in jeopardy. Struggling to figure out what she wants, her partner Darren doesn’t understand why it’s so hard. Darren is an aspiring writer (played by Jack-Scott Walker) by night but works in sales by day alongside Casanova Luke played by our good friend Alex McDonald-Smith.
The cast including Dru Stephenson who plays Lisa, Waverly’s partner in crime and recently turned lesbian, took to the stage at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre, which is an intimate space above a pub called The Oxford Arms.
The space was obviously very small so this possibly limited the way the performers could move about on stage. The direction was well thought out though and they made good use of entries and exits, distinguishing the scenes well with the lighting. The lighting, however, did at points come on a little late but was well handled by the actors who waited patiently until the lights came up.
The music was very well done considering there was only a piano on stage and the strings were I believe somewhere behind the stage. Considering this was only three instruments, the music filled out quite well and it didn’t feel empty. The Musical Director was Chris Corcoran who was a talent on keys and definitely deserved a round of applause for his performance at the end of the show.
The cast was a small but talented bunch. Their performances were played with emotion and the songs within the show were a variety of slow and upbeat numbers. I loved the ‘Hungover‘ number and Alex McDonald-Smith singing ‘Morning After Omelet‘ was hilarious and full of visual innuendos. Luke was a typical casanova character who found it easy to chat and bed women, whereas his work colleague Darren, found it extremely difficult. Alex made his character Luke very likeable even though he was a little bit of a douche bag. I’ve known Alex from university so there’s one comment I will make and that’s…corpsing. He knows he does it so he needs to kerb the habit!
Sarah Pavlovs who played Waverly was someone I definitely could relate to. Being an aspiring actor myself, the prospect of having a full-time job and limiting yourself to time you can give as an actor can be extremely daunting but sometimes it’s necessary. Sarah had some beautiful moments within the show which really brought back home the message of the story that sometimes life doesn’t always pan out the way you want it to. Sarah definitely took her character on a journey of self-discovery and you felt for her every step of the way.
Dru Stephenson who played Lisa was a light-hearted relief to some of the more grittier moments. A singer who plays in a local bar and dreams of finding true love, Dru played the character very well and had the comic timing of her lines down to a T. In the end, Lisa moves away to find love and you do feel hopeful that the character will go on to find someone. I think for me to feel this as an audience member, means Dru performed her character very well.
Jack-Scott Walker played Darren and his character definitely experienced the highs and lows, going from being in a relationship where he was ready to settle down to suddenly finding himself single and alone. Jack distinguished this very well and I loved his scene with Luke where they were trying to pick up women and Darren was failing miserably. He stayed true to his character till the very end so you felt like you wanted to give his character a triumphant pat on the back for getting Waverly back.
The singing had all the right emotion that you could wish for and I much prefer a performance that’s gritty and full of emotion than something that’s super polished but has little to engage with as an audience member. Their harmonies were very well placed and I thought the space was perfect for their voices as it allowed them to sing without the use of microphones.
I caught up with Sarah after the performance to ask her a few questions about how she felt the show went. Take a read below!
What were your reasons for picking this musical?
When choosing a musical I always pick one that I personally have a passion for or that touches me in some way, be it through the story, characters, or music. If I’m going to hopefully make an audience love it I want to give it the time and love it deserves. I’d done ‘I love you because‘ (written by the same team) a couple of years ago and was lucky enough to be in touch with the writer Ryan Cunningham. He’d suggested ‘next thing you know‘ as a future show. It appealed to me and seemed right for my company as it’s another small cast fringe show (I always wanted to do this type of show as I like bringing new musicals or ‘not well known’ musicals to more audiences. I also love working with a small cast and building good relationships where we all know each other well enough as people and performers we not only enjoy the experience more on the stage but also then can have believable connections for an audience) I think there are moments in NTYK that most people in the audience can relate to- the idea of growing up and making choices, not wanting to look back with a view of ‘I could have done that‘ . I especially liked the friendship in this show between Lisa and Waverley. The more we explored the limited script (that was the hardest part at first – to develop the characters as much as we could as scenes are so short) Lisa came out as gay at 24 leaving Darren to be a lesbian- he has been with Waverley for 4 years (they are both 28) having first got together one drunken night in the toilets at the bar. This meant that actually Waverley and Darren maybe drew comfort from each other over this apparently shocking news, or she was in some ways his rebound he’s been scared of losing ever since. the show also has some great comic moments. I like how some songs are so relatable to the audience- be it hungover, or with ‘the way to get a girl‘ pretending you’re in a relationship, as a few of my newly single male friends have said recently how true it is that you only seem to be able to attract other when you’re in a relationship! However what I also liked about this show was that it isn’t just a quick fix happy ending. There’s a line at the end which says ‘dear god please tell me what comes next‘ which shows how really we’re all just trying in life to make the right decisions, and even though Waverley has chosen Darren, and given up on acting, and Lisa is moving away, and Luke is newly single- none of them really are certain they’ve made the right choices.
What were some challenging moments that you or other cast members found during both the rehearsals and the performance?
It was such a quick turn around at the venue – get in at 6, show at 7, show finishes at 8.29 and out by 8.45. It would have been nice to ‘bed it in‘ a bit more. As we were told on the day we couldn’t use an exit we’d used the previous day in our 2-hour rehearsal so we had to restage a couple of bits very last minute.
I suppose the only other challenge in rehearsals was my ridiculous giggling fits! And that actually is something I also love about this company- how much laughter is in the rehearsal room and the bonds we make. Everyone involved in every show in Starbuck, from cast, lighting, sound, band- Everyone is important and we all get on, and I’d like to think the audience can take at least a little of the joy we have making the pieces home with them from the shows.
What did you think of Camden and the Etcetera theatre?
I’ve done all my shows in small fringe venues in the Midlands and London (previous ones include the Old Joint Stock, bham and Tabard Theatre Chiswick) I like taking the shows to different fringe venues to allow different audiences to see the pieces, with venues I think the shows may fit. We did NTyK previously at the Worcester Arts Workshop which is like an underground cavern studio space none of the cast has ever performed in Camden. And the place with its boho exciting feel for me drew me to it as it seemed to fit Waverley’s arty idealistic view of life, of wanting that buzz to continue.How did you find performing in a small space?
What’s next for Starbuck Theatre Company?
For us adults, we’re performing NTYK again on Nov 3-4 at the Old Joint Stock in Bham. We haven’t chosen a show after that yet, but I’m in chats with a couple of people about a few potential shows and projects. Although we also have a fundraiser on June 10th in Worcester.
What’s been the most recent piece of theatre you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments below.