Michael Strassen directs the new Barn Theatre, Cirencester production of Jim Cartwright’s Olivier Award-winning play with music, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. In the latest in our Featured Show series, Michael tells us more about the approach he’s taking and why London needs to sit up and take notice of what young artistic director Iwan Lewis is up to in the Cotswolds…
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice has a strictly limited season at the 200-seat Cotswold venue from 7 July to 4 August 2018, with a press night on 11 July and a post-show talk chaired by MyTheatreMates co-founder Terri Paddock on Friday 20 July.
Michael Strassen directs newcomer Sarah Louise Hughes in the heart-warming story of a reclusive Northern girl-next-door whose remarkable ability to impersonate the great singers provides her with an opportunity to transcend her tragically unappealing domestic life. But pushed by a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking mother and coaxed into the limelight by her mother’s latest talent agent boyfriend, timid ‘Little Voice’ will need to conquer more than just stage-fright if she is to find her own voice in the world.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice runs 7 July to 4 August 2018 at The Barn, 5 Beeches Road, Cirencester GL7 1BN. Performances are Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £14-£30. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Talking to… Michael Strassen
Michael Strassen had a long and successful career as an actor before starting to direct. His award-winning credits as a director include Company, The Pitchfork Disney, Tommy, The Fix, Billy, Duncton Wood, Pippin, Season’s Greetings, Call Me Madam and, in 2011, a revival of Godspell, which featured Iwan Lewis, who is now artistic director of the Barn.
Commenting on Strassen making his Barn debut, Lewis said: “Michael is one of theatre’s great directors; it’s very exciting to welcome such excellent and prolific creatives to our theatre to bring his radical interpretation to the Barn.”
Prior to your directing career, you worked for 25 years as an actor. What were some of your personal highlights as an actor?
Playing Piaf’s lover, singing Marius to Michael Ball’s Valjean in a huge concert in front of the Queen and 250,000 in Hyde Park broadcast globally by the BBC. Being screamed at as Rock Hard in bike leathers on a Harley in Leicester. Working with Sondheim at Oxford during his professorship there.
What made you want to start directing?
My love of Sondheim. I was asked to direct Company at the Edinburgh Festival. It was like crack. I was hooked. Five-star reviews luckily made me think, ‘Ok, let’s keep going.’ I had directed The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley before that, but this second production set the bookend for me.
What do you like about actors? What do you think most actors wish most directors understood better?
I love actors but hate false process; I usually weed this out at auditions. I think actors wish directors knew the terror of performing – I do. It’s all energy. ‘The dog in the cellar,’ I call it.
What appealed to you about The Rise & Fall of Little Voice?
Its beauty through the ugly. Its themes are ancient too. I saw the original twice. Brilliant.
Why did you want to revive Little Voice at the Barn Theatre?
The Barn’s audience are listeners; what a gift. I want to lure and burn them with its bark! What can audiences expect from my version of the play? Well, my brand is raw truth so make of that what you will.
LV impersonates many of great 20th-century divas. Which is your favourite?
Judy Garland. A genius. She didn’t thrive despite of her pains in life she wore them with pride.
You’ve previously worked with artistic director Iwan Lewis on Godspell, when he was an actor himself. What do you think of what Iwan’s doing with the Barn?
Iwan is going to be a force this industry has secretly craved for years. He can bang his own drum. He’s Welsh and I’m a Geordie so there’s no hiding from each other. In my interview for this play, I knew I was dealing with a great mind. Be scared!
Why should the London-based theatre industry sit up and take notice of what’s happening at the Barn?
It is real and dangerous. It’s not rep as such, but boy, it’s a great place to bounce talent too. Tech-wise, it’s off the scale. It’s a producing model not unlike the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. I’m just so thankful that Iwan has seen my need to create. He gets me. It doesn’t freak him out. The whole team are young and hungry. It’s a stunning energy to witness. I’m joyful.