Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

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Pughie
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Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

Post by Pughie » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:43 pm

Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

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Act One
Barney Ashton-Bullock-Writer also playing the part of Daniel & Christopher Frost-Musical Director


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1. Torsten The Bareback Saint now seems so long ago but it started off this extraordinary trilogy, the first show was quite a simple affair, a song cycle with a slideshow visual aspect. How did it feel at the time to be able to get this show off the ground?

BAB-It felt absolutely right that at that stage of my life that I went in a completely new and musical direction from the dramatic verse and poetry that I’d been associated with on the London Fringe. Its simplicity had lot to do with the fact that the first show was, in effect, not directed; our first theatre director left our collective before we even set foot in Edinburgh for the Fringe Theatre Festival in 2014.

CF-It was quite exciting and a bit of a step into the unknown. I had never been to the Edinburgh Fringe before let alone performed in it. The first show was really just a live performance of most of the album. I did feel a bit like Vince Clarke 2.0 performing behind a laptop and keyboard whilst Andy sang his heart out. It was pretty full on to get that many songs in our allotted slot and I remember Andy ribbing me one night for moving onto the next song a little too quickly for his liking. It wasn’t exactly out of our comfort zone but certainly something different for all of us as Torsten doesn’t follow theatrical or pop concert traditions, as it’s really a hybrid between theatre, poetry and pop.


2. Did that show end up being how you first envisaged it, or did it exceed your expectations?

BAB-I think it did meet expectations in that it was, indeed, a performance that was somewhere between a poetry recital and a theatrical concert. I think at that stage it was very much about the songcraft, but as my career has been one of curating documentary archive footage it was a joy to make some evocative, and I hope not too overbearing, image sequences for the Torsten The Bareback Saint Show.

CF-It was a good experience and first try out but we did have a few staging and technical problems along the way. You come to expect the unexpected and need to be flexible, adaptable and just go with it. There was one night where we played to 7 or 8 people but that is what can happen at these festivals and is all part and parcel of the performing experience. There are so many acts performing in Edinburgh and we were just glad to be able to perform there and get some exposure.

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3. I was lucky enough to see the 2nd preview show in London for the Erasure fans, how has the reception from the Erasure massive been from your point of view?

BAB-The Erasure fans are definitely a very strong component in the Torsten fanbase and we are all very grateful for their interest and support. We draw in audiences above and beyond them too; people who have expressed an interest in poetry and musical theatre and also people who follow the record label SFE and the Above The Stag Theatre.

CF-I think it is fair to say that at first the Erasure fans were a bit sceptical of the whole Torsten idea but once they understood that this was a totally different thing from Erasure they quickly accepted it and got on board. People recognised that Andy was trying something completely different and perhaps heard his voice in a different light for the first time. Some fans have made lovely comments and have been incredibly supportive. We’ve even had Team Torsten badges made for the 3 of us.

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4. Torsten the Beautiful Libertine Show was a completely different beast to the first show, it had now evolved into more of a traditional theatre show with more players involved, how was this transition for you?

BAB-I have written plays since the late 1980s and represented the UK through he Royal Court Young People’s Theatre twice in the 1990s. Torsten The Beautiful Libertine was my 12th theatrical production so moving Torsten into the areana of stage drama, seemed like a homecoming for me.

CF-That was a bit of an odd one for me as I wasn’t heavily involved. The theatre was producing everything and Barney had a strong idea of what audiences who frequent Above The Stag regularly expect to see. Therefore, he wrote the script and I prepared all of the piano and vocal scores and just let the theatre team develop the show according to their vision. A few new characters were added to the mix and the project, which has since influenced its direction.


5. The new show had a stunning yet simple set which really looked the part complete with bespoke costumes, how did you feel about the new direction the show took?

BAB-I adored David Shields’s set. It showcased a lot of things that I’d collected over the year as part of his design. I thought Torsten The Beautiful Libertine a wonderful production of a surreal concept.

CF-The theatre designed and built a fantastic set. It helped to support the narrative and further provoke the audience. Theatre is a totally different animal from pop performance but Torsten has always had a sense of theatre running through it even without being staged so it was good to take the next step and see how audiences reacted to this.

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6. Both the first two albums had an accompanying companion CD in the Variance series, these from the fans point of view can move the songs into a more dance style or experimental versions with new lyrics/mixes, how do you see these releases from your perspective? which leads into the question will we see a Variance 3?

BAB-I think I see a song as being a ‘text’ that can be re-anchored multiple times depending on its musical backing and the nuances of words. It’s infinitely re-arrangeable and Variance is the experimental forum for us to do this and to shift the emphasis on the listeners ‘reading’ of the emotions and story of that particular song. I’d like to continue the ‘Variance’ sequence, but we’ve given it little thought thus far as the completion of the ‘Torsten In Queereteria’ album, its photo and art direction, the promo video work and then the writing, re-writing, rehearsing and the run of the stage play have been so very all consuming.

CF-We are very aware that much of the Torsten fan base are Erasure fans so we wanted to give something back in the form of dance remixes. It also gave other acts the chance to show their talents. We had a real mix of unknown and established bands and producers. Torsten is all about collaboration and creativity with everyone bringing something to the fore which the Variance albums fully embrace.

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7. We are now heading into the era of Torsten In Queereteria (part 3) the final instalment in the trilogy. How has this particular show evolved from parts one & two?

BAB-In terms of the timeline, we’ve propelled forward into a near future where England as we know it has been obliterated. It’s given us a chance to expand the Torsten songbook and also to make another theatre show in which I’ve experimented a lot more with visceral and vulgar comedy.

CF-This show is really another episode involving all of the characters from part 2 but with the addition of the character of Daniel. We wanted to become more heavily involved this time with Barney stepping up to play Daniel and myself as Musical Director. We also have tow young guys, Tom and Will, playing younger versions of Torsten and Daniel. Will has choreographed some great dance set pieces and both lads have fantastic voices also.


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8. Lady Domina Bizarre has also evolved with the introduction of Matthew Baldwin, how is he getting on taking over the part and how did his appointment come about?

BAB-The previous actor in the role of Lady Domina Bizarre left our peaceful collective for fresh fields with a decided bang, which gave Andy and I the welcome opportunity to think about a re-cast. I’d seen Matthew in a couple of pantomime’s at the Above The Stag theatre and during the second one, Andy and I mouthed ‘Lady Domina’ at each other and then asked the theatre’s Artistic Director, Peter Bull who said he’d be fab too!

9. Peter Straker is making a welcome return as Rupert, but now we also have Daniel a character who has been referenced in T2,played by Barney, is this something that was always going to happen or have you just sort of thought “let’s go for it”?

BAB-I think it was always going to happen, that Daniel was going to make an appearance. Characters come and go in all of our lives and in Torsten’s especially so, due to his elongated life. That I play the character of Daniel is about me rising to the challenge. I have acted before, but as a fairly reclusive person, I haven’t much liked being around the often extrovert fuss and ‘look at me, look at me’ nonsense of theatrical life. As a writer, though, I’m very in tune with the quietude of the ‘process of becoming’ which is my approach to acting and the focussed intensity of credibly portraying someone else. This gives me a chance to prove to myself that my choice, early in life, not to be an actor was taken not because I can’t act, but because I preferred writing! There are several performance projects I’d like to do going forward and I feel the time is now!

10. History dictates that trilogy’s don’t necessarily mean the end,Ask George Lucas!,what does the future of Torsten hold?

BAB-Andy, Chris Frost and I are ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’; we have been from the start of the project and we will be until the end. Torsten lives, though the future is, as ever, unformed. There is no ego in our project at all; that’s why it has been a wonderful creative haven for us all in a sometimes heartless world. I truly value that we’re all mutually supportive introverts who feel energised in the collective effort and creative commitment to each other. It feels like an unbreakable bond, but, we honestly, at this stage, don’t know what the future holds for us, other than to get through the stage shows to the best of our abilities. So, I’m not being evasive, I simply don’t know the whats, ifs and whens of any future for us. When things do end, just as when the initial spark of the Torsten idea occured, it’ll happen without fanfare and will hopefully be indiscernible. Just as when things die, they don’t mean to and there shouldn’t be a fanfare (or a press release!). Just as we once emerged into light, so we’ll one day fade…..

CF-The plan from quite early on was to make a trilogy of albums and shows. The Torsten songbook is already quite vast and I think we are all open to collaborating on more. However, we also have our eye on a few other projects so we’ll just have to see what takes our fancy next.

Act Two
Christopher Frost-Musical Director (subject specific questions for Christopher)


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(Barney & me,Christopher & me,Matthew & me!)

8. Andy mentioned during interviews for the last show that he wanted to sing a sea shanty,it looks like you made that a reality,do you have full reign over the styles of each track or are you given a brief as to what each song should be?

It was very clear from the outset that Barney wanted to set the third instalment into different acts. This in some way influenced the style of each section. There is a more electronic act and more musical theatre act etc. This album is also the first one I fully produced as well so I had full reign over the end product. This has allowed me to experiment with a few ideas and highlight instrumental features and sounds in the mix.

The opening act was a real labour of love and has a mixture of styles linked together through Barney’s lyrics. In fact, the first 4 songs all segue into each other to create a mini symphony of contrasting parts.

The opening song, A Hundred Years Plus Today came to me while I was sitting on the sofa one evening not long after the first theatre show in London. I usually work to Barney’s vocal lines but this time it was the other way round with the melody and chord structure already in place. This gave Barney a new challenge lyrically and we have produced an anthem of sorts. The second song combines a Middle-Eastern belly dancing style with a Brazilian bossa nova. It’s fun to mix disparate styles together to convey Torsten’s muddled state of mind and create something that is sonically idiosyncratic.

Barney came to me with the idea of having a sea shanty choir singing in the third song. Torsten songs are all about creating sound worlds so I decided to combine a “sea shanty choir” with electronic and gaelic/folk elements with a minor modal tonality. We couldn’t find a “sea shanty choir” who could help us so we created our own choir utilising the voices of Barney, myself and my friend Jenny from university. Jenny’s vocals add so much to 3 of the songs in the first act with another friend from university, Tom, also playing guitar on a few and another teaching colleague playing flute later on the album. I am hugely grateful for their contributions, which has helped sculpt the sound of each song.


9. Do you like performing live onstage like the original show,or do you prefer an audio playback like on the second show?

Personally I prefer an element of live performance combined with playback. This is purely for the reasons mentioned before about creating sound worlds. Piano and voice is great but it doesn’t necessarily convey the different moods and emotions of the songs. I try to reflect the narrative in the musical arrangement with the aim to heighten or support the tone or feel of the lyrics. Sometimes the music will go against the narrative as this can convey irony, comedy or something darker. It’s a similar approach to composing music for films.

Act Three
Matthew Baldwin-Playing the part of Lady Domina Bizarre


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(Matthew pre-show,in rehearsal & aftershow with me)

1. Welcome to the world of Torsten,did you see any of the previous shows?,and how did your part in Queereteria come about?

MB-I didn't see the previous Torsten shows alas, I met Barney and Andy for the first time when they kindly came to see me in a production of Snow White at Above The Stag one Christmas. We often bumped into each other after that and I was always interested in Barney's work as a poet when we chatted. I actually approached them and asked to be considered for the role when the time came for Rob McWhir, our director, to put together a cast. I just really thought Andy and Barney were super creative and fun people and that working with them would be exciting. Turns out I was right!

2. You have been tasked with filling the shoes of the part of Lady Domina Bizarre previously played by Lana Pillay,how have to approached making this part your own?

MB-From what I heard Lana Pillay was amazing and, as you say, big shoes to fill. I took the decision to put any previous Lady Dominas out of my mind and just respond to the text as I see it. I didn't want to be burdened with any expectations. I love playing big characters, divine monsters! I love gender bending and queer theatre and absurdism and musical theatre and Barney's script has all these things in spades. Hopefully people will like it. I'm lucky enough to have Andy Bell at my side, and Barney and Chris the writers, and Rob our director, and Peter Straker! Straker is a legend, the man has funny bones, is incredibly talented and is showbiz to the core. We have two fabulously talented young actors Tom Mann and Will Spencer also on the team putting us ALL to shame. Hopefully I can't go too wrong with colleagues like that at my side.

3. If you could describe your incarnation of Domina in three words, what would they be?

MB-Unpredictable, Energetic, Narcissistic

4. How has it been working with Andy?,have you been a fan of his work with Erasure?

MB-Obviously, when you are working with someone, you have to pretend to be cool and not tell them how much you admire them and what an effect they have had on you. And of course, Andy is such a humble and lovely man that you just feel that he is a wonderfully generous and talented colleague. HOWEVER - it's Andy Bell from Erasure! I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when Erasure were releasing some of their biggest hits. Those songs have been a soundtrack to my life. And such songs too! I Love to Hate You and Blue Savannah Song are always on my playlist. Also, as a queer kid in those days it wasn't like it is now. There was precious little gay culture to grab onto and Andy was out and proud, and funny and camp and fabulous at a time when it was not at all the norm. He was a real trail blazer. He brings the same fearless artistic spirit to the Torsten projects as well. More than anything we have all laughed a lot.


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Tickets available from-
https://abovethestag.ticketsolve.com/shows/873602940


SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

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Queereteria TV-Erasure4rum Review Of 2nd Preview night

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Stephen (Andy’s husband fresh from flying in from Miami),Andy aftershow with me),signed Queereteria Deluxe Edition

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A few pages from the excellent Deluxe version of the album

Ahead of my first official show this Saturday I went down to London to see the 2nd of the preview shows,today’s show is the press night ahead of the full run.
Arriving at Vauxhall I headed for the venue just as I approached, Peter Straker came out of the theatre so I automatically knew I was in the right place!,I introduced myself and went into the venue,I was the 3rd person in the venue so headed for the bar,as I was ordering a drink Andy came in,came up to me gave me a hug & a kiss,he was looking great and he headed off backstage.
After sitting in the bar for nearly an hour not knowing anyone I spotted Joey (from USA) who I met previously at the Libertine Show as you can see 3 years apart and we still sat next to each other.

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(Fellow Erasure fan Joey from San Francisco at the show and at previous Libertine show)

Anyway back to the show,the stage set is BiG,it’s BIGGER ... it’s BRIGHTER .... it’s FABULOUS!!

Now the serious bit.

If your expecting anything like you’ve seen before I’m sorry you’ll be disappointed.

It’s nothing like before,it’s BIGGER BRIGHTER & even more FABULOUS! If you haven’t got a ticket beg,borrow or steal (well maybe not steal) to get yourself one.
One part of this new show I was worried about was the new Lady Domina Bizarre played previously by Lana Pillay who by most people’s thoughts is a massive character,has a big stage presence and is virtually irreplaceable.
Within a few seconds of Matthew’s Lady Domina coming onto the stage you ask yourself the question ‘Lana Who?’

Matthew steals the show completely,his performance is stunning!,it’s funny it’s completely over the top and enjoyable.

This time around Torsten is still the main man,Andy on top vocal form (and yes we all spotted the Erasure reference crowbarred in),stagetime for Andy is cut down a bit as we now have 6 performers but the other players all get to sing at some point,Peter has a couple of solo songs. Barney also gets his character Daniel live onstage and looks like he’s having the time of his life really getting into the part. The two younger guys playing young Torsten & Daniel also do a great job not only playing the characters but also providing various dance routines throughout.

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Young Torsten-Tom Mann & Young Daniel-William Spencer

Lady Domina’s song Senseless (not the Erasure Classic) as heard on the opening Senseless Symphony from Variance 2 will be etched In my mind for a long time to come ...... complete with simulated sex,it has to be seen to be believed.
A new version of Queercore complete with non Lana specific lyrics is a highlight.

The stage set is similar to the Libertine set a vast collection of artefacts strewn around,but this time a large ramp is included for the players to enter & leave the set,also a vast array of LED screens to the rear and sides that really light the place up. It looks stunning all credit to the stage designer (David Shields).

So the verdict is-go see it and Twitch you Bitches!!
Rating: 100%


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Onge
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Re: Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

Post by Onge » Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:56 pm

Excellent work Pughie! Bravo!



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Pughie
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Re: Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

Post by Pughie » Fri Apr 12, 2019 9:53 pm

Onge wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:56 pm
Excellent work Pughie! Bravo!
Thank you very much.


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Re: Erasure4rum Asks Team Torsten

Post by Pughie » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:01 pm

Hello to all viewers getting here via the EIS newsletter,new members always welcome.


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