Wrapping up 2013

Hello again. Sorry the blog went quiet without warning. You know how it is, once you stop doing something, it becomes harder to start it up again. Plus, an awful lot of life seemed to be happening for a while there, so I didn’t really feel like doing much of anything. Still, cusp of a new year, so well worth clearing up the detritus of life since the last update, putting a bow round it, calling it a present, and then moving on to a more communicative 2013.

I last left you with two weeks to go before the first official Rebel Breed performance, and a vague promise to blog more and write more in general. Obviously, blogging more has not been a success. But what has been successful, you ask?


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!


New ventures

Tl;dr – making creative things in Leicester. Get involved.

Over three years of living in Leicester, I met a load of talented people, who just give away their time either through generosity or because they don’t quite realise how special they are. Also, I made friends with these people.

The other thing that happened is my confidence in writing, and my output, increased by a lot. (Also, directing is fun apparently.) (Also also, I like doing radio.) So, when I stopped pretending to a degree/graduated (ymmv) it seemed imperative to keep doing this sort of thing, because it’s what (all I’m) good at.

One project I did while in university has proved to be the catalyst for doing all of this. Basically, things got out of hand. William Breden came to me with an idea for a musical skit, taking the piss out of musicals and cheap dates with affection. This has snowballed into a full-length show at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival in February 2014. However, we needed to bill it under some sort of company name, rather than just vaguely go “here’s a show”. Also, through our collaboration, there proved to be a lot of common interest in doing a wide variety of stuff independent of any groups we’re associated with.

Enter Rebel Breed.


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: