London Calling at Salisbury Playhouse

Salisbury Journal: Glyn Kerslake Glyn Kerslake

LONDON has been the inspiration for songs throughout the ages.

From poignant ballads such as 1939’s A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square to the Kinks’ hit Waterloo Sunset 30 years later to Lily Allen’s LDN in 2006, the songs reflect the styles, preoccupations and moods of their particular moment in time.

And it is these rich musical yarns from across the decades that have been woven together to form the tapestry of London Calling, opening at Salisbury Playhouse next week.

For the three musical theatre actors charged with bringing it to life on the stage, it requires them to evoke not only the tragedy and fortitude of the Blitz but also the hedonistic pop culture of the ’60s and the hippy-dippy days of the ’70s, as well as the ongoing tragedy of homelessness on the streets of our capital and the loneliness that can be found underneath the surface in a busy, prosperous city.

“It is such a mix of music,” says actor Glyn Kerslake, 46, who appeared in the theatre’s previous Christmas shows Let’s Misbehave and With a Song in My Heart, and has also been in West End shows including Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera.

“Some is contemporary and some very traditional, and there is some beautiful poetry in between. We deal with everything from the Great Fire of London to the Blitz.

“The scope is enormous and you’re dealing with lots of different composers and different music. It’s very exciting to work on.”

And it’s also proving a challenge for Kerslake and his fellow performers, Stuart McLoughlin and Lauren Storer.

“You have to change the texture of your voice to go with the songs you are singing,”

explains Kerslake. You may need a mellow baritone for a traditional song, but then a more contemporary song needs to more edgy. Singing The Clash is a challenge for me!”

And with about 25 songs being performed, there are a lot of words and music to learn.

But the cast, along with the theatre’s artistic director Gareth Machin, who devised the show, choreographer Joanne Redman and musical arranger Kate Edgar, are thoroughly enjoying the rehearsal process.

“It’s great, and it’s going really well,” says Kerslake. “It is a completely different style of performing to doing a big West End show.

When you are in something like Les Mis you are pretty much trying to achieve what the director wanted 25 years ago, but this is more organic. Everyone chips in with suggestions and they are very open to that.”

Kerslake’s love of theatre began as a child growing up in Devon when his parents were in local amateur dramatic companies.

“I grew up listening to that sort of music and watching them perform,” he says. “And even then I was as interested in the rehearsals as in watching the shows.”

At the tender age of 16 he was accepted on a musical theatre course in London and set off for the Big Smoke.

“It was a shock to the system having grown up in a small seaside town in Devon,” he laughs. “But I’ve never regretted it. I still do a job I love. I wake up every morning and look forward to coming to work, which is not something everyone can say.”

And he also still enjoys the place where he lives.

“It is such a proud and vibrant city. I love to walk along Waterloo and Westminster bridges at night when it is quiet. The views are absolutely stunning.”

The songs that are both a part of the history of London and a reflection of that history are what London’s Calling is all about, and the show offers something a little different the usual Christmas entertainment shows.

“There is something in it for everyone,” says Kerslake. “I think that is what is so appealing.”

London’s Calling is in The Salberg Studio at Salisbury Playhouse from Wednesday, December 18 to Saturday, January 18. Tickets are available
on 01722 320333 or at salisburyplayhouse.com.

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