Emma Clarendon chatted to Ben Norris, who makes his West End debut in The Choir of Man, now running at the Arts Theatre.
Hi Ben – can you tell me what the show’s about? The Choir of Man doesn’t have a story, and ostensibly it’s all about the music, but beyond the songs we really wanted the show to have something to say for itself. Especially given we’re a male voice choir, so it’s only men on stage, we wanted to take that opportunity to explore contemporary masculinity and celebrate the changing ways that men can interact with, and support, each other. The heart of The Choir of Man is all about gathering together, the power of community, and the joy that everyone gets from joining in collective song, whoever you are. The pandemic and the enforced separation we all endured has only heightened this joy, I think.
How does it feel to be making your West End debut? Incredible, a dream come true.
What have you enjoyed the most about being part of this production so far? The sheer amount of talent within the group – I’m in awe of all of my castmates, as musicians, singers and as people – and the support we’ve all given each other. The show is incredibly high energy, and thus incredibly tiring, but if you’re feeling flat on a particular day, there is always someone there to pick you up, and by the end of the night you’re grateful for having spent an evening in the pub in their company, whatever mood you were in when you came in. The audience’s energy is very infectious too, and seeing how much they enjoy it, and the escapism that so many people clearly need, is very gratifying.
What made you want to be part of this production? I’ve always been interested in men exploring masculinity, indeed I think we have a responsibility to, and so that appealed to me very much when I first heard about the idea. I’ve also always liked acapella singing and harmony singing (I was in a very bad and very short-lived barbershop quartet when I was about 16!). The musical ambition of some of the numbers in the show is really breath-taking, and so to get to perform arrangements like that (I’m thinking particularly of our versions of Sia’s Chandelier and the traditional folk song The Parting Glass), is an honour. Having a live band for the more up-tempo tunes is really fun; it’s bigger than just the choir, and I love that.
How would you describe this show? I would describe the show as a high-energy Big Night Out, but with some beautiful, reflective, quieter moments too. It’s unapologetically entertaining, with something for everyone in terms of the range of music on offer, and sends people home not just with a spring in their step and a tune in their head, but also, I hope, a warm feeling of having spent the evening in the company of new friends. You can also get a free pint from the onstage bar, which certainly helps!
By Emma Clarendon
The Choir of Man continues to play at the Arts Theatre and is currently booking until the 13th February 2022. To book tickets visit: Love Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, London Theatre Direct, From the Box Office or Last Minute.com.
INTERVIEW: @LoveLdnLoveCul chats to @BenNorris7 about @choirofman & the responsibility of exploring masculinity (through music). #TheChoirOfMan #WestEnd #interview