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Now That’s What I Call Barbershopera!
Last night I headed down to my favourite haunt the Soho Theatre to catch the critically acclaimed Barbershopera! I’ve been a fan of their online videos for quite some time and seeing them live didn’t disappoint!
Stepping away from their usual format of full-length narrative shows, this cabaret was jam packed with wonderfully clever songs, parodies, anecdotes and warmth. I loved it.
After battling through hundreds of admirers and well-wishers, founding member Rob Castell was kind enough to chat to me a little about the show…
FF: For our readers who are new to Barbershopera, how would you describe your act?
RC: Barbershopera is a four-part harmony, a cappella, comedy musical group with 3 guys and a girl…
Well that’s the tag line! We basically sing comedy songs without any instrumentation. They are original songs or sometimes parodies. In the past they have been part of full length, narrative shows but this show is a Cabaret where we perform the songs as stand-alone.
FF: Where did you guys meet and why did you start performing barbershop together?
RC: Well in more recent years, we’ve actually auditioned people and got people in so we haven’t always stayed constant throughout. Lara, Pete and I have been part of it for years and years.
It was born at university when my friend Tom and I were both in the drama society and we both loved barbershop singing. We used to hang out with some friends and sing in the bar. It was such a lovely thing to do and, because we were doing so much comedy and theatre, we just thought there has to be something in this! You either heard traditional barbershops doing quite dated stuff or there were comedy sketch groups. We just thought lets do a whole show that’s just barbershop. The name Barbershopera just stuck and we just grew it organically from there.
FF: Our readers may recognise you as “Pablo the Matador” from E4’s Playing It Straight this year. I want to know if you were privy to the truth about the contestants’ real sexuality throughout the process?
RC: Genuinely not! It is high security. The only thing was that Gary, who played the troubadour, and I had to write all the songs on the day. So they would tell us what task the contestants were doing that day and we would have to write the songs. But it is totally real. It was all real revelations for the production team. We were kept completely away from the contestants. That was the way they had to do it. People were always like “is that girl really crying that much” Well yea she really was!
FF: One of the songs from your show is called Edinburgh (Not Gonna Go), which is about the difficulties of taking a show to the Edinburgh festival. Are you going this year?
RC: Haha! Yes we are! We didn’t go last year and I think that made us think we have to go back! It’s a difficult thing because we don’t want to go year after year just for the sake of going. It’s just such a big part of our style. We are quite fringy as a group. We’ve also got a bit of fan base and are warmly welcomed in Edinburgh. It just seems silly not to go. Also, it gives you your next bits of work. People come to see you in Edinburgh who then book you to come to London who then book you on tours. We didn’t have that last year and I think we did lose some momentum.
I went up last year just to see some shows and I felt really sad that we hadn’t gone. So we are back this year with a new version of The Three Musketeers!
FF: What’s next for Barbershopera?
So we are recording a new afternoon play for Radio 4, which will be broadcast over Christmas. We are doing a bit of touring and then we are going back to Plymouth to the Theatre Royal where we do a residency at The Drum. So it will be nice to do a Christmas version of the show. It will be The Three Musketeers “Christmas style”. We’ve also been working on a TV treatment and talking to some people so who knows!
Here is little taster video for you. You can catch Barbershopera at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 23rd June. Tickets available here
Barbershopera: I Could Have Married Kate
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