‘Tomorrow, Maybe’ started off as no-more than a concert between friends. Steph and Teddy had been asked by their friend, Kevin Jones (Director of Stickman Productions, a local theatre company in Southampton) to write him a concert as he had always wanted to work on something original. Steph had already booked tickets to go traveling for a year in New Zealand, but said she was more than happy to hand over some of her work to Teddy and Kev to work on while she was away. After a few late night writing sessions, the ‘concert’ drastically evolved into an idea for a musical set in a coffee shop and the ideas kept tumbling out. With only two months until Steph left the country, Amies & Clements spent the summer hidden away writing.
In October 2014 they got some friends together to sing the opening number so they could hear it live for the first time before Steph got on a plane. It was about then that we realised we had stumbled across something quite special, and less than three days later Steph made the hardest decision she had to make, and got on the plane to New Zealand – she knew she was leaving the first draft of the show in the capable hands of Teddy, Kev, Bex and Stickman Productions, but it did not make it easy to leave it behind.
Kev & Becky (Directors), Sam (Co-MD), Dani (Producer), Adam (Executive Producer) and Teddy (Co-MD) made up the team who began workshops on the first section of the show in November and December 2014, finding out what worked and what Steph and Teddy needed to work on. This did however mean that Steph was editing the show half a world away, resulting in hilarious incidences of writing lyrics haphazardly on any spare paper, scribbling out handwritten scores without manuscript paper, sending voicemails of vague melodies that popped into Steph’s head in New Zealand for Teddy to transcribe back in England, not to mention the numerous Skype conversations at ungodly hours due to a 13 hour time difference! The most memorable of which was Steph skyping into a run of the first section of the show at 4am her time – what a surreal experience to wake up and be sung at by 9 people! Although it may not have been the most efficient or easy of writing processes the show continued to be edited throughout the start of 2015 and the distance further strengthened the writing partnership.
The team in England cast the show with the best amateur and semi-professional cast available and then went in search of a coffee shop to premiere the show. After a few months of searching local venues we got in contact with Asante coffee shop in Romsey where we quickly developed a personal connection with the staff. Although the managers were initially uncertain of having our show in their shop, they soon offered to front all the costs of the show with the intention that all of the ticket sales go to their charity c4c (Citizens for Change), a charity that helps feed and educate 350 children/young people in Kisumu, Kenya. Now that the team had a brilliant cast and an exciting venue we went full steam ahead into rehearsals and workshops between February and May 2015, working on new sections of the show and even putting in a new song in the final fortnight, following an entertaining conversation Steph had with some elderly ladies in New Zealand.
On the 19th April 2015 Amies & Clements and ‘Tomorrow, Maybe’ received their first critical reception and professional exposure at ‘British Musical Futures – A Night of New Writing Hosted by Stiles & Drewe’, the writers of ‘Betty Blue Eyes’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Just So’ and ‘3 Little Pigs’ at the St. James Theatre in London’s West End. Amies & Clements were chosen by Katie Pesskin and ‘As Told By Productions’ to have 3 of their songs from the show performed at the event. On the day of the performance Teddy travelled to London (whilst Steph was sleeping soundly in New Zealand) and witnessed West End professionals including Aaron Sidwell rehearse their songs. Steph still doesn’t believe the whole thing happened. She was painting abstract art in a warehouse in stormy Bluff (the very South of New Zealand) at the time, so the whole thing was completely unimaginable. That evening Teddy was invited on stage at the start of the concert and was interviewed by George Stiles and Antony Drewe. They talked about ‘Tomorrow, Maybe’ and how Steph had tottered off New Zealand, which was a laughing point for all, but they also marveled at how the partnership survived under such interesting circumstances!
PUBLIC PERFORMANCE ONE
In May 2015 ‘Tomorrow, Maybe’ had its first full public performances and was extremely well received from the audience who came to see it. From those performances we received some excellent feedback on the show and the best way to develop it in the future. We left a two week sell-out run with a new energy, new inspiration, a small but dedicated following of supporters, a list of people who wanted a copy of the CD and a cheque for £2000 that we raised for Asante’s charity, which we proudly presented to them on the final performance. To all of those people that came to see the show and gave us feedback, thank you so much – we hope that we have taken your thoughts on board accurately and you still love the new versions just as much as the original.
Steph came home!
Steph landed in the UK at the end of July at a delightful 6am local time. She was picked up by very excited parents and was driven home to find Dani and Teddy in her parents kitchen, who had dragged themselves out of bed at an unheard of hour, just to have breakfast with Steph on her return. A few days later, Steph’s mum took her to see Asante, the coffee shop where it all happened, and Steph still did not realise that later that evening, Teddy, the team and the cast had arranged a private surprise performance of the show when Steph returned to the country. All of her closest friends and family met secretly in the shop and with some careful planning from Teddy and Steph’s mum, Steph had no idea what she was walking into. The cast were rather nervous for Steph to see it for the first time, but they nailed the performance and Steph was blown away by how the show had come to life. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime special occasions that will stay with everyone involved for a very long time.
Once Steph recovered from her jetlag and settled back into Southampton, Amies & Clements began working diligently on rewriting the show, finding new cast members to replace ones that moved away and creating a careful plan for the future and where the show is to go next. They endured many crazy late night writing sessions and complaints from neighbours about post-it covered windows, but were delighted to be reunited and working together again.
In December 2015 the original cast met back up together to record the original version of the show. We once again took over Asante for a few evenings to do a live recording – an album that was to become one of our Kickstarter rewards. The recording was so much fun, despite the atmospheric clicking and hissing of the machines and despite working until 2am, it was an incredible experience for all involved. We were very lucky to have borrowed many pieces of high quality equipment from a variety of friends, and in just two evenings we recorded the full show which Kev then took away to spend hours mastering. We were also very lucky to have Natalie Thorn available to take some delicious shots of our recording in action!
All photo credit to Natalie Thorn – Theatography
WORKSHOP TWO, 2016
In January 2016 we started rehearsing the second major draft of the show. We were lucky enough to keep the majority of our previous cast, but sadly had to say goodbye to Rich and Jeremy as they both moved away to new pastures. We welcomed new cast members Dan Ferret and Sam Gregory, who moulded in our already tight-knit cast and had quite a challenge to pick up a huge amount of harmonies that the others already knew. Although, throughout the rewrite process we had made many small lyrical and musical changes which was rather amusing to watch the older cast try to undo over a year of muscle memory. Before we knew it we were back in Asante (which was more like home to us by this point) in the evenings for rehearsals. Steph had actually been working at Asante since September, so we were lucky to have her in rehearsals making us coffee, and making sure we were well supplied with cake.
At the end of January we attended the Southern Daily Echo Curtain Call Awards in Southampton. ‘Tomorrow, Maybe’, Amies & Clements and Stickman Productions were honoured to receive 3 awards at the Daily Echo Curtian Call Awards. The production won ‘Best Newcomer’, ‘Best Opera or Musical’ and the coveted ‘Production of the Year’. We couldn’t be happier with the result, here are some of the things that the Echo said about the show;
“This immersive piece of theatre was conceived and executed to the highest standard and continues to evolve.”
“An original immersive musical conceived, written and debuted here.”
“Innovative, immersive and refreshingly original, this self-penned, site specific production grew from nothing into something spectacular.”
When we began this whole process, we didn’t really know what we wanted from the show, and through the first workshops and performances we slowly discovered what it was really about and now, fueled by some pretty exciting awards, and by an overwhelming local support we felt like we were doing something right.
Creatively, the two biggest things that we wanted to work on were the thematic progression and the Rosa back-story as our biggest feedback from the original production is that people wanted to know more about her. From day one she has always had a story, but we never really explored it in the show itself, so we made sure she was more prominent throughout, we learn more about her story, and we wrote her a beautiful solo called ‘Shade of the Mountain’. When we came to workshop there were of course multiple small things that didn’t work, and the occasional odd big thing, but overtime during rehearsals the new draft really started to blossom, and we knew we were heading in the right direction. In just a few months it was incredible to see how much a show can progress from a few changes. Overall we were pretty pleased with the progress.
Over the course of rehearsal Steph officially broke the record of how many hours one person has spent in Asante, having started a shift at 8:20 am, and finally leaving the shop at 2:45am after a rehearsal followed by an intense organising meeting. A meeting where we finally decided to take the leap and apply for the Edinburgh Fringe in August and set up a Kickstarter to help get us there; a scary meeting but the best decision we could have made. From that point we were in full organising mode and started to really plan for the future of our little show.
PUBLIC PERFORMANCE TWO
Suddenly we found ourselves in a three week run of the new draft in Asante, which pretty much swallowed our April. In the previous run, the backstage space was out the back of the kitchen with the big commercial bins. We moved all the un-needed sofa’s into the alley, and the cast had a little comfy, if slightly damp and smelly place to change during the show – but we had a little scare before the show began when we discovered building works were going on in the flats above Asante and they had removed the roof! For a rocky few days, in rainy rainy April, we were terrified the cast would have no shelter to change. Thankfully, and much to our surprise, the hairdressers next door were more than happy to pass us their keys in the evening. Not only did the cast have a warm space to change – they had a mirror each, really comfy chairs to sit in and they even could use a toilet during the show without running to the nearest pub! True comfort!
Every day we were in Asante by 5:45 after they were closed, to rearrange the shop, drag in a hundred costumes and props. Rearrange the hairdressers to fit in the spare sofa’s, set up the speakers, sent up the band, and set up coffee and cake for the evening. Steph and Mike (Asante’s Assistant Manager) were pretty much there every night to serve coffee and cakes to the customers throughout the performances. They were long days, but very much worth the effort. We had sold out ever night before we even opened and by the time our first audience was in we were all buzzing.
As Steph had missed the public performance the year before, she was overwhelmed by the audience reactions to the show. She learnt a lot about the writing, what did and didn’t work, just by watching the audience’s faces. The production team took it in turns to sit and watch Front of House, and changing out in the hairdressers, helping with quick costume changes, running around with props. One day we forgot to grab a tray from Asante before the performance began so our Rosa came into the kitchen mid-show to find Steph crawling across the floor trying to grab a tray without being seen. Oh the joys of live theatre.
In a blink of an eye, we were at the final night, which was emotionally charged for all involved. For all of us, it was the of a two-year era; we had started out as a small concert and had become a full fledged musical. Our journey had been quite a ride, we had encountered so much good will and had our faith in humanity restored. We will never forget where we came from and we will always have a special place in our hearts for all the people that had been part of making this show possible. There is a lyric in the show that says ‘People can surprise you, people can amaze, people can defy’; a line that not only sums up our journey so far, but a line that was written specifically for the people that have dedicated hours, money, love, sweat and tears into this show. The final note of the show pretty much broke us all. We are eternally grateful to our cast, Asante and audiences for their dedication and support; you are incredible people, thank you.
In our second run at Asante, we raised £2595 for Asante, and we know some of that money has gone towards letting some of the pupils at the school enter a music competition, which made us very happy.