We chat to the brains behind Sheffield’s Black Box Productions about their latest show, Cracked Actors.
The latest production from local organisation Black Box will unite four modern day icons. The music of David Bowie, Kate Bush, Marc Bolan and Lou Reed will come together in a stunning show featuring a live band, singers, professional dancers and visuals. We met the dancers behind the show and had a chat with Black Box founders Jennie Swift and John Slater to find out what’s in store.
What’s the show about and what inspired you to put on this production?
Jennie: The show’s called Cracked Actors and we’re uniting the music of icons, Bowie, Bush, Bolan and Reed, on one stage with dance and visual movement.
John: I think the reason why we’ve chosen these people in particular is, putting aside the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since my teenage years, is the fact that they all kind of worked together at some point. They were very much in each other’s pockets.
Jennie: And they often worked with the same choreographer. They were influenced by each other.
John: It created a new sort of style, certainly for the pop culture. They pioneered it. What Jennie and I like to get involved in very much taps into it.
Jennie: We are a tribute show, even though you might cringe away from that idea, it’s what we are and if you like live music and dance and those particular artists then you’ll love it. The band and the music is 100% live as well as the singers. John’s arranging the music – every night at the moment we’ve got Kate Bush on! And we’re also choreographing everything. The dancers are doing it all themselves.
How did you choose just four icons?
John: Well, it was because they worked together, they set the standard I think. There are other icons. We did think Iggy Pop as he was around the same scene but replaced him with Kate Bush for more diversity. First of all, she’s a female artist; we didn’t want just a whole load of testosterone on stage! Secondly, her music lends itself to everything that the dancers can do, as opposed to just bouncing around on stage to Iggy Pop…
How did you choose the dancers?
Jennie: We’ve worked with them before, and they’re brilliant dancers and lovely people. And I know that they’ll do a fantastic job. They’ll be able to add things as well. I wanted people that would take it as a creative opportunity. They have a brief and we’ve given them songs but the choreography is up to them. They will bring their own styles and talent to the stage. It’s their interpretation.
Who are the musicians and singers?
Jennie: Paris Phipps will be singing Lou Reed and Rob Benson is doing both Marc Bolan and David Bowie. He was actually in T-Rex; after Marc Bolan died Micky Finn chose Benson to carry on. Not that you can, but he was thought good enough to step into Bolan’s shoes. Then we’ve got Marilyn who does a very good Kate Bush.
Will there be a lot of costumes and theatrics?
Jennie: The band and the singers won’t actually be dressed up as a tribute, it’s more the dancers that will be in costume and having fun with that side of things.
John: The show’s about celebrating the music, music that has stood the test of time. We’re not trying to whisk people back to the 70’s or 80’s. Their music was about creativity, and we want to represent it in a different form, rather than simply just playing it. This is where the dancers and visuals come in.
Jennie: We’re working with Rotherham College’s media department, for the staging, make-up and things like that.
Desert Island Discs style ultimatum: if you had to pick just one of the four musicians to listen to o repeat for the rest of your life – which would it be?
John: That’s easy for me, Bowie definitely.
Jennie: I like them all, but I’m gonna be different and say Mark Bolan.
Cracked Actors is all about the spirit of collaboration, who would be your dream musical collaboration?
John: I don’t know. Personally I would have loved to do something with Deep Purple just because they had pure freedom on stage, and I grew up listening to them.
Jennie: That might be the next one…
“I started doing breakdancing years and years ago, then I moved onto parkour and free-running when I was in Greece. I was always really active; when I left school I had an interest in becoming a stuntman, as I really liked all the Jackie Chan films. I moved to the UK to teach. My style is quite acrobatic, drawing on free-running.”
“In school I used to be in an orchestra and got roped into dancing by my best friend. I was a shy mess, and so scared. Two weeks later I ended up really enjoying it, quitting my musical instruments and focusing on that. I went to a local dance school to explore different styles of dance, and in Manchester and London as well. I also went to America for three months and when I came back I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I started up my own commercial and street style dance school, INK, as there was nothing like it in Sheffield.”
Louana Rose Contarino:
“I’m also part of INK, but I’ve always liked dance, doing ballet and tap when I was younger. Now I teach Zumba and fitness classes. I like street dancing and hip hop the best as for me, personally, you can express yourself through that. There’s a lot of attitude.”
Simone Nycha Thompson:
“I’ve always danced. I was an 80’s kid and dancing was just something you saw Michael Jackson doing, it wasn’t really a job. I tried ballet and tap but I was the naughty kid who would never stand still! I eventually joined Sheffield Youth Dance, which opened my eyes to this dance world that I didn’t know existed. At uni I did dance as an elective whilst I was doing Graphics, then I did another degree related to my love of dance. In the end I just wanted to get stuck in so I opened Nycha Dance Studios to create a place for it in Sheffield. Contemporary is basically my style but I do street as well.”
Catch Cracked Actors at Queens Social Club on March 28 2015. You can pick up tickets from Mooch Vintage on Division Street or from www.eventbrite.co.uk. Head to www.facebook.com/blackboxsheffield for more information.