Lewis Cornay, Molly Lynch and Duncan Drury lead the actor-musician ensemble cast of Stiles and Drewe's JUST SO at the Barn Theatre. We caught up with them to discuss the biggest challenges and rewards of performing in an actor-muso production (and putting it all together in just three weeks!)...
In Just So, five of Rudyard Kipling's short stories are woven together into a wondrous tale of personal courage, individuality and friendship. The Eldest Magician is creating all the animals. Everything is Just So until Pau Amma the Crab starts playing with the ocean, which causes the land to flood, putting the other animals in danger. While the rest of the animals accept their sad fate, Elephant’s Child embarks on a journey to challenge and overcome the disobedient crab. Along the way, he meets other creatures and discovers how they came to be the way they are.
Lewis Cornay, Molly Lynch and Duncan Drury play, respectively, Elephant's Child, Kolokolo Bird and Eldest Magician.
What’s your favourite thing about being in an actor-muso production?
Lewis: It’s wonderful how we can add another dimension to the storytelling with the instruments. I think it makes it even more emotive because we are producing as well as delivering our story.
Duncan: We achieve quite a big sense of togetherness when everyone’s playing onstage together. It’s a lot of fun!
Molly: Just being a spectator in a room full of multi-talented people. The brains in our rehearsal room blew my mind. Reams of sheet music, hundreds of dance steps, harmonies and lines all learned and perfected in three weeks of rehearsals. It's the ultimate example of multi-tasking, and I have such admiration for my fellow cast mates. Our choreographer Joanna Goodwin has also found so many moments for incredible choreography and integrated the instruments in such a beautiful way. I didn't expect we could have so much movement when people were playing, but Jo made it all work.
What’s been the biggest challenge with putting on Just So?
Lewis: The instruments! I play nowhere near as much as most of the cast, but it has still been a challenge learning to sing, dance, act, play, juggle, breathe fire and pirouette all at the same time.
Molly: Making an actor-musician piece is a massive challenge in itself. Musical theatre is already a multi-disciplinary art form, but in a traditional musical, there is scope to tackle things in chunks, such as scenes, music and dancing. And you don't have a band or orchestra join you until you've had three or four weeks rehearsing. In this type of show, you have to deal with all of these things at once from the get-go. It's thrilling but definitely challenging.
What’s your favourite song in the show?
Lewis: I think it would be a toss-up between ‘Wait a Bit’ and ‘If’. I’m lucky to be off stage for ‘Wait a Bit’ so I can listen to the Irish Songbird that is Molly Lynch singing her heart out. I love that the song is very specific to a particular moment, yet every audience member can relate. ‘If’ because the words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem are so powerful and musically it ties up a lot of loose ends.
Duncan: My favourite song to be part of is ‘Little One Come Hither’, but my favourite song objectively is ‘Does the Moment Ever Come’. I’d listen to that on the tube.
Molly: My favourite song is 'Does the Moment Ever Come', which Lewis sings. It breaks my heart, and his performance of it is stunning.
What musical instrument would you like to play that you can’t already?
Lewis: There are so many I want to learn. Watching Rosalind [Ford] and Imogen [Halsey] in the show has made me really want to get started on cello.
Duncan: The saxophone, I love a bit of jazz.
Molly: Definitely the cello. Especially after watching Imogen and Ros in this show. It's such a beautiful instrument, and it has the most incredible range.