Putting on a Show – Week 13: It’s coming

A clock, to represent the rapid passage of time

Two weeks to go until the show.


But hey, that’s exciting too because…

It’s two weeks to go until the show!

You see, sometimes life’s just a matter of a change in emphasis/font/medication.

There’s not a great deal to say about the show other than rehearsals are going. As my honourable colleague says, we’re exactly as rehearsed as you would expect for the number of rehearsals we have in fact had.

Instead, let’s talk about multi-tasking.


Putting on a Show – Week 12: Getting Serious Now

As you may have gathered, Nando’s and Nandon’ts is but one prong in a many-pronged approach to making stuff in Leicester. We’re taking meetings this week concerning a potential theatrical project concerning mental health. Podcasts are being planned (and are already starting to live over on and on iTunes).

Plus, if you are interested in appearing in/helping out with a pilot for a webseries adapted from As You Like It by William Shakespeare, please email us on rebelbreedinc [at] and we’ll get back to you with details. Also, like and follow us all over that Internet:
Twitter @rebelbreedinc
 – it’ll be a laugh. Thanks to anyone who already has, it’s nice to not be shouting completely into the void.

But the most important thing remains Nando’s. We’ve got through the whole play now, and the songs are starting to stick, the lines are starting to go in, and the whole thing is slowly creaking into life (the tango looks good, despite the difficulty it took certain cast members to figure out how to do a lift).

However, one thing these blog posts have been lacking is some evidence of what the show is actually like. Part of it is because it’s still in development, part of it is keeping the surprise, and part of it is not having the time to film and record stuff as well as rehearse. I can offer you the next best thing, though.

Cast member and costumer Olivia Deane is also a talented singer-songwriter. Her website is, and you can find her on, or her blog However, the best place you can find her is her YouTube channel. Below is her latest song, “Muse”.

With talent like that, how could we possibly fail? Stay tuned!


Putting on a Show – Week 11: Rehearsals and keys

We rehearsed in our venue. Our venue is a pub. All rehearsals should be in the pub.

All is excitement in the world of chicken, and chicken-related theatrical produce. Yesterday marked our first rehearsal with our current cast and script, and everybody has hit the ground running in terms of knowing stuff and not falling off the stage. Plus, our little family is expanding – we’ve added Jasmine Coben the choreographer and Douglas Deans the ukulele player. This is some next level hype, people.

The major issue we’ve had in commencing rehearsal is, as usual, my fault. When you (and when I say you, I generally mean ‘I’) compose songs, you’re basically making them to suit your own voice and abilities. This is fine, except when you give it to someone who has a drastically different voice than you, such as a woman. It’s at that stage you realise the song is ridiculously low or high, the actress loses confidence and the rehearsal grinds to an agonising halt.

The obvious answer to this problem: change the key. What is ‘the key’? Some basic and probably incorrect musical theory for you. Western tonal harmony (that is, British and American non-weird music) is based around the relationship between notes, not the actual pitch of the notes themselves. Therefore, as long as you move all the music the same distance up or down in pitch, it makes no difference what the actual pitch of the music is. If you’re playing a piano or a guitar, it’s a fairly simple matter to change the key, and many experienced players can do it in their heads.

The only issue with this in our musical is that we’re not using pianos or guitars – we’re using the humble ukulele. The great thing about the ukulele is that you can play many of the most common chords you need using very few fingers. The problem with the ukulele is that if you try to play any chords other than these, your fingers look like a spider having a stroke, and you promptly forget how you fingered them. (Also, for whatever reason, it is very difficult to play an E chord on a uke. Which is irritating, because it’s a basic chord that’s VERY easy to play in guitar, and thus features prominently in a wide variety of songs. Bah.) With guitars, you have a thing called a capo that you can put across your frets to easily change key. You can get these for the uke, but I am poor and do not own one.

So, we have the fun task of figuring out which of the few possible keys that the ukulele naturally plays in fit with the songs and the actors’ voices. Luckily, we’re managing to figure it out. This does mean that I have the occasional exotic chord to remember (I still haven’t figured out F# minor), but luckily, now it’s more Doug’s problem than mine.

Next week – the next rehearsal! Full steam ahead for our Nandocas.


Putting on a Show – Week 10: Funny – what is it and how do we? (Part 2)

We had a read/singthrough of the whole play at the weekend. It’s all very exciting. And now, the second part of William Breden’s article on the funny. WARNING: contains many swears.

Part 2: Lowering the tone – rude words are big and clever

music screenshot

Last week I focused on a specific joke and used it to show something about the play as a whole. This time around I want to be a bit broader and talk about tone.

The tone for the original 5-10 minute version of Nando’s was pretty straightforward: silly. Because it was over a short space of time there was no desperate need for character development and/or a narrative arc. It started silly and got sillier. It was funny. All good.

Once the decision to go to an hour was reached then tone became a bit more of an issue. One level, one note of emotion, over such a period would be stupid and it would be boring. Boring is bad.

So instead there are ups and downs, laughs and sads, anger and calm. We achieve this through dialogue and song, and also through swearing.


Putting on a Show – Week 9: Funny – what is it and how do we? (Part 1)

nandos miniThis week and next, William Breden tells us all about funny business.

Part 1: Why did the chicken change her name?

For the last couple of weeks (prior to the ominous death clock last week, I mean), James has held forth about the music in Nando’s, and how it evolved and why it does what it does. That’s fine, music is generally held to be of at least moderate importance in a musical after all. Whatever.

This week, I thought I’d focus on humour in Nando’s, how it’s evolved as the play developed and what purpose it serves.

A good example is a joke that was present from the first draft, back in April, and has remained until now, our tenth draft:


Hello! Hello and welcome. You both look swell, just swell. My name is Sally Chicken.

                        (She pauses to allow a reaction from the couple)

All Nando’s employees must change their names to Chicken when they join.


Erm. Right.




Ha! I’m only joking. HAAAA! Could you imagine?


Ha, no.


It’s not Sally, it’s Fenugreek.

Now, that’s not a particularly complex joke, but it helps achieve a few things. Firstly, it introduces the character of Fenugreek and establishes that a) she’s got a silly name and b) she has a somewhat idiosyncratic syntax. This helps the play in that it immediately sets up contrast between her and the rather straight Melvin and Caroline, and in this contrast we can begin to find absurdity, drama and humour. All from a small exchange of silly lines. Neat, huh?

But there’s a little problem with being too smug about the above, namely that the punchline, the ‘Fenugreek’ , isn’t actually particularly amusing. I liked it at the time, I thought it was a funny word and appropriate and so hoped it would fit but on hearing it rehearsed and then performed it fell flat. It wasn’t funny. I wasn’t funny. Disaster. So how do we try to make something that we thought was funny funnier?

We tinker.

This is how the line appears in the current draft:


Ha! I’m only joking. Could you imagine?

CAROLINE (Still giggling)

Ha! No.


Of course it’s not Sally, it’s Rubber.

So it’s the same exact joke but the payoff is better, clearer, more logical. Logic is important in humour, and you can subvert it but if you want a silly chicken name then by Colonel Sanders you’d better go with a rubber chicken, which has been a stalwart of comedy since at least the Pythons.

The new version of the joke was performed and I had a number of people after the event come to me and tell me they liked it (which was nice) and one person come to me and tell me they liked everything except the name change (which I also welcomed, critical feedback is vital). So not everyone will laugh, hopefully more people will than won’t, but even if they don’t it still serves an important role in establishing tone.

So, jokes are funny (sometimes, to some people) but that isn’t always their most important role.

Next week I’ll talk a bit more about how humour affects the tone of Nando’s, and also talk about swearing.


Putting on a Show – Week 8: Something Chicken…

…this way flaps.

November 12th, 2013.


Putting on a Show – Week Seven: The Breden Interrogation (Act Two)

The only update since last time is that we did a readthrough, and the words sound like words. So that’s nice. The last five “questions” from Will Breden to myself concerning music and musicals and such:


Putting on a Show – Week Six: The Breden Interrogation (Act One)

v10 screenshotSorry there was no blog last week. Not only did Bank Holiday delight but confuse us all, but we were in intense work on the script. On August 30th we hit version 10.0, with all songs written and words as we want them. Now, we abandon writing it for a bit. We’re giving it to our actors and close friends for feedback, then we’ll bring it back into the shop to tinker with it again based on what they think. The big day, though, is September 29th, when we’ll have our read/singthrough with the cast, and where we really find out if this script’s going to work.

But, blogging. This week and next, some terse questions from Will Breden to myself, concerning music and musicals. The first part:


Putting on a Show – Week Five: A Sneaky Peek

script screenshot

This week, rather than just babble on about the play, we thought we’d share a small chunk of it. Here is a bit of the latest draft, from the beginning of Act Two. Our characters are Caroline, who is waiting in Nando’s for her boyfriend to join her, and the waitress, Rubber. Our action begins with some mild language:


Putting on a Show – Week Four: Melvin

MelvinWelcome back to our series on Nando’s and Nandon’ts. Last week, you heard James Bloomfield talking about his role, Melvin, and this week you’ll hear myself and Will.

Melvin’s been the most difficult character to crack, and has certainly been the one under most discussion in the super-secret writing meetings. Our protagonist has always been Caroline, and as such is closely linked with the story, so the two progress hand in hand. The waitress, Miss Chicken, arrived pretty much fully formed, and is distinct enough that she slots in naturally to whatever plans we have.

Melvin, however, is different. When the play was short, and the focus was on the couple’s interaction, he slotted easily into the “boyfriend” role. However, as the play got longer, and Rubber was brought more into the story, he slipped quite strongly into becoming the antagonist. We could make him very clearly one or the other, but we felt that would be simplistic and unsatisfying. So, most of the trouble has been to reconcile both sides of his character, while trying to a real person rather than a function of plot.

How this difficulty in balance has come out in the script is that you’d have some scenes in which Melvin was being boyfriend-y, and then some scenes in which he was small-minded, rude, and just an arse, and you had no idea what Caroline would see in this guy. It is important that you buy them as a couple, and to some extent you want them to figure out a way past their problems. There had to be some tension as to who Caroline would end up with, but also there had to be some sympathy with Melvin’s plight, otherwise there would be no drama. It was also important structurally – to buy the ending of the second act, you have to believe in Melvin and Caroline as a couple.

Our specific thoughts concerning motivation (rather than what seemed funny and to make some sense) only truly coalesced for all the characters following our performance at the Y Theatre. An email from me on June 24th contains this nugget of Melvin motivation:

“…Melvin realises she’s never going to be the sort of girl he wants to be in a relationship with…”

Will succinctly defines his position in the play:

“…Caroline’s story,  Rubber waxes as Melvin wanes”

And on the 30th, Will sent me a bio about him, to inspire further script development:


Age: 24

From: Leicester

Job: British Gas telesales (shifts)

Friends: Work mostly, male mostly, locals.

Notes: Confident but prone to anger. More comfortable in mainstream culture than with subtlety. Caroline is not his first serious partner. He compartmentalises his life. Work/relationships/friends. Is genuinely fond of Caroline.

The only amendments I made to this were that he is “the sort of person who tries to figure out the plots to movies as he goes along,” and I describe him at the end leaving “Malvolio-style/like the antagonist of a high school comedy”.

So now, Melvin’s function in the play is a lot clearer. Yes, he is Caroline’s boyfriend, but they are wrong for each other. This makes him the antagonist, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. His outbursts stem from an emotional place –  frustration about his relationship – rather than him being a dick, and they are simply his way of dealing with their issues. He doesn’t get on with the waitress, but that doesn’t mean he’s misanthropic, just that their personalities don’t gel. His solo is yet to finalised, but it’s now more about himself than attacking other people.

It’s worth pointing out that however aggrieved Melvin is, as his relationship with Caroline goes up and then down, and though he blames Rubber for some of his woes, he doesn’t descend into something too unpleasant. We have a setup where both of the female characters in the play are bisexual but Melvin doesn’t seek to make emotional capital over this.

Obviously, the character will continue to evolve, as we have yet to hand the script to James to see what he can do with it, but we’re coming to a better place with him, which is satisfying.

Next week, we’ll look at the music.


Putting on a Show – Week Three: Ask An Actor

James BloomfieldThis week, we have an interview with James Bloomfield, leading man, to give you an impression of what it’s like working with us, and to prove the madness is shared.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m James Bloomfield and I’m a psychology student at the University of Leicester, going into my third year. Much more importantly I’m also the publicity and marketing officer for LUTheatre and I’m playing Melvin in the Nandos musical.

Why get involved?

Because I didn’t have anything else on at the time, and a certain Mr. Ward asked me if I felt like singing a few songs about chicken.

Why did you volunteer for this sight-unseen?

(Because you said it was going to be a one time only 15 minute performance oh god what have I done)