A Pimp, A Eunuch, A Courtesan And A Virgin Walk Into A Bar…

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From L to R: Michael Jenkins,Grace McCabe,Toby Davis,David Harvey at All Bar One, Brindley Place. 

Part of the fun of performing in a big Crescent musical is the people met, the friends made,and the stories swapped.
I met with four members of the ‘Forum’ cast at All Bar One in Brindley Place; Michael Jenkins,who plays ‘Hero’ ; Toby Davis (Marcus Lycus) ; Grace McCabe (Panacea), and David Harvey,who juggles a number of roles in the play. They all very graciously made time for me to talk to them,before what was to be a very energetic and demanding Sunday afternoon’s rehearsal.
They’re all young, bubbly,enthusiastic…eager to share how much fun this production has been for all of them.
“This is, by far, the most enjoyable show I’ve done” says Toby, a relative Crescent veteran, who’s been a member since 2007. He’s a big, barrel-chested, naturally friendly guy, with a booming laugh,who also just happens, to have perfect pitch (to the envy of musical theatre types everywhere).
His is an impressive Crescent pedigree, with roles in ‘The Threepenny Opera’, ‘Sweeney Todd’ and most notably, a menacing chauffeur/gangster in ‘Grand Hotel’.
Has he used anything from his personal life to inform his character in ‘Forum’?
“I play, essentially,a pimp” he notes drily. ” And I work in a bank. So this role is a complete flight of imagination for me”.
I throw the question out to the others.
Michael considers this carefully. “I’m pretty shy with women, especially ones that I like,on a one-to-one basis.” he says,weighing his words. “So I’ve used that quality with Hero, who’s inexperienced and shy with girls.” ( If I didn’t know Michael fairly well, I’d say he was being disingenuous…he has an easy charm which disarms most people,particularly the opposite sex. He seems affectingly unaware of it.) Michael’s first production at the Crescent was last years ‘Grand Hotel’, where his talent and commitment were noted; he’s since appeared in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and the Christmas Wassail.
Grace, a trained actor, feigns outrage at the question; ” I’m playing a courtesan!” she says, laughing,mock-aghast. “So NO!”
At 5’11”, Grace has the striking look of a catwalk model ( unsurprisingly, she has modelled in fashion shows for fellow students in her undergraduate days.) She has two Crescent productions under her belt ( The Christmas Wassail and ‘Merchant of Venice’) despite having been a member for only a few short months.
David, an Oxford graduate in Psychology, has an infectiously enthusiastic mien. He talks in rapid fire staccato bursts: ” Well,the thing is, I play characters that, essentially, are there to feed the story.” He says. “A bumbling eunuch, a bumbling soldier. I think the common thread is ‘bumbling’ ” ,he smiles.
David did a lot of productions while an undergrad: ” I did,I think,an average of one production every term. Some good,some not so good”
He tells of productions as diverse as ‘Peter Pan’,performed in a dorm room, and acting in a resident Don’s translations of Voltaire,complete with rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter.
I ask a question that I like to ask actors: What would be your dream role, stage or screen?
“I’d very much like to revisit a role I did at school”, says David “in the play ‘Not For Heroes’, about the relationship between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Other than that, ‘Posner’ in ‘The History Boys’.”
Grace is lucky enough to have already played one of her dream roles; at Arts University Bournemouth, in her final year, she played Katherine Hepburn in a one woman show,written by herself. “I was scared to death on opening night. It was a big challenge, but it went really well.” She says she’d love the chance to play Scarlett O’Hara.
Michael would relish Sweeney Todd, or interestingly, Pseudolus from ‘Forum’. Toby, after much thought, plumps for ‘The Hound’ character from ‘Game of Thrones’ ( I tell him he’d make a fine ‘Javert’ from ‘Les Mis’. Better than Russell Crowe, anyway.)
As new,or new-ish members,what has their experience been like, performing at the Crescent?
The collective positivity is overwhelming.
“You always worry at the beginning of any production whether the end result will be any good, and whether the cast will gel” says David. “I’ve always had a great experience here, whether working in props, where I started, or onstage.” Toby and Michael nod in agreement.
Grace sums up their thoughts nicely.
” When I joined the Crescent last year to do the Wassail, I didn’t know a single person here. Now I feel like I’ve made friends for life. It’s a great place to be.”

‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum’ at The Crescent Theatre, May 25-June 1.

Photo taken, and additional ambience created, by Tiffany Cawthorne.