Leading actor-musician Lloyd Gorman has appeared in Sunny Afternoon in the West End, UK tours of Our House and Treasure Island and a number of productions for Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. But his career began here in Norwich.
My First Panto: Rapunzelruns from 29 November to 12 January . It’s the seventh My First show the songwriter and composer has written for. We caught up with him on the first day of rehearsals.
How did you get involved with My First?
I was cast in My First Panto: Cinderella as the Prince and one of the Ugly Sisters in 2016. I’ve known Daniel Burgess (of All-In Productions) and Adam Taylor (executive director of The Garage) since we were young and involved in The Theatre Royal Youth Company. I have always been keen to be able to come back and work in Norwich. The process of rehearsing Cinderella was fairly experimental as it was the first of its kind. When the musical element of the show started being discussed I jumped in to write the tunes – albeit very last minute – and really enjoyed it. When they decided to do another panto the following year, Daniel and Adam asked me to write the songs and that was that. I keep thinking that one day I’ll just run out of ideas.
Could you talk me through the process?
A few months before rehearsals start Daniel produces a first draft of the script. He, Adam and I then go through it and comment on what we feel could be developed or improved or cut etc and discuss where we think songs could fit within that and what they narratively need to achieve. We also talk about what sort of style the music should be. I then go away and come up with a few rough ideas which I send to the guys, just to make sure that I’m on the right lines.
Once that’s confirmed I then get on with producing the body of the work. In shows like these, casting is a vital element. We tend to do a couple of days of casting, in which we need to find great actors, singers and musicians that also have the right tone to deliver the show to this age group. Once we have our cast in place, I then arrange the songs for the instrumentation we have and hand it over to the cast.
What are the challenges of composing for the My First series?
We are trying to make accessible theatre for an age group that often isn’t allowed to express themselves within a “traditional” theatrical environment. So by trying to break down those barriers and encourage the children – and adults – to let their guard down and really immerse themselves in the story, we are opening ourselves – and our actors – up to having to really think on our feet.
No two My First shows are the same and that requires a freedom within the script and music for things to change and develop. I’m very conscious about trying not to over complicate things and keep the music simple, regardless of what my instinct sometimes tells me to do. It’s got to be clear and narrative-driven, as well as being sonically pleasing and accessible to that age group. And, above all, not patronising. It is certainly a challenge.
What beats are you trying to hit?
We have come round to a fairly structured format over the last few years, but within that we really try not to be too predictable. We always have audience interaction sections of the show and more often than not that will involve a song that they can have an input into. In My First Panto: Little Red Riding Hood – which is playing in King’s Lynn this year – we have a “name song” to introduce ourselves to each other. In Rapunzel we have a song which involves the children washing up etc. The opening song is very important. It needs to be welcoming and positive as well as set the story up without being too intense very early on, as well as mirror the song we have as a finale. Each script and story requires different beats and intentions within the music, so although there are some things that we do on a regular basis, we try not to shoe-horn them in.
I’ve heard a couple of songs from My First Panto: Rapunzel, they’re very poppy, very catchy?
I try to make them hummable and memorable. I do listen to Disney, Pixar etc for bits of inspiration but I also don’t want to make the songs too “kiddy”. I just try to make them fun.
Do you have a favourite song(s) from all the My First productions you’ve worked on and why?
That’s a hard question. I’m quite pleased with I’m Going Out that is in Rapunzel this year, for no other reason other than it’s silly. Some stuff in Little Red Riding Hood I quite like and I enjoyed writing the music for My First Circus: The Littlest Mermaid this year. It’s hard to say as I tend to be fairly self critical, but there is generally one song that I’m pretty pleased with from each show for various reasons, most of them silly reasons.
My First Panto: Rapunzel is the latest interactive family show from The Garage and All-In Productions for ages 0-7, full of singing, dancing and playing. High in her tower, Rapunzel sits by the hour, waiting for the day she can explore the world below. Is she just being kept safe by her overbearing mother Dame Gothel or is she a prisoner? A chance encounter with a Prince turns her world upside down.