During the dark times that the creative industries are currently facing, there has been some light. Halls, a new British musical by George Stroud and Jennifer Harrison, has released its first song: ‘Flat 15B’. In a video published online, the song is performed by West End stars, including Grace Mouat, Oliva Moore, and Sophie Isaacs. It seems as though Flat 15B is incredibly relatable for those who have spent any time at university, and if this is anything to go by, we are sure the upcoming musical will be a huge success.
We spoke to the team behind Halls to find out more about the show…
The music video for ‘Flat 15B’ is amazing! Was it difficult to organise?
It was a bit of a complicated process; everyone was filming from different locations and with different equipment. It was also particularly difficult to ensure that everyone was in time, even though they couldn’t hear each other. Luckily, we had an excellent cast and creative team to work with.
What can we expect from the show? Do most of the scenes take place in the flat?
Most of the scenes take place in the kitchen of Flat 15B. The writers, George and Jennifer, drew on their own uni experiences, as well as the experiences of people they knew, to write the show. The general consensus was that the heart of university halls is the kitchen. Some scenes do happen in characters’ bedrooms, and (on rare occasions) we visit the SU Bar, but generally, we’re in Flat 15B throughout.
What music has influenced the sound of the show? Did you take inspiration from any other musicals?
The music is influenced heavily by the music that the writers were listening to at university; very British, pop-rock. This is also the type of music associated with TV shows and films in popular culture that are about young adults coming of age, like The Inbetweeners, so we associate that sound with this sort of thing. As it has been developed, and orchestrated further, it has started to sit more in the MT world in terms of sound, but our writers aim to keep it within that pop-rock genre.
You’ve previously spoken about how anyone can play any character in this show. Was that something you felt was important to do, to truthfully represent the university experience? You’ve also said that ethnicity, accent, and size are not important for casting- do you think that’s something more shows should do?
Yes. Our writers, George and Jen, believe that someone’s ethnicity, accent and size should not be a factor when considering them for a role. The whole show is about an authentic university experience, which focuses heavily on the type of people you meet, including a whole range of characters and personalities. Their outward physical appearance really shouldn’t matter. It isn’t important to the story that any of the characters have particular physical attributes, meaning that a cast of one production could look entirely different to the cast of another production. At Halls, we think it is important for shows to be as inclusive as possible, however it is show dependent; in a show like Hairspray, ethnicity will, and should, effect casting, but for the characters in Halls, it’s not important and so shouldn’t be considered.
You’ve committed to casting two 2020 graduates in the show, which is amazing. Why did you make that decision?
We felt that it was important to give 2020 graduates a guaranteed platform. We know how badly they’ve been effected by COVID-19 and the worry that lots of them are feeling right now. George and Jen only graduated within the last two-to-three years themselves, so they’re keen to support other young, up and coming artists, too. They understand the challenges that come with being new to this industry.
There has been a lot of bad news for the theatre industry during COVID-19, with shows closing and a lack of funding. Is that something that worries you for the future of the show?
Of course, everyone is worried about the future of theatre at the moment. It’s so uncertain, but especially for new musicals. We are confident that Halls will hit London in 2021; we had secured the majority of funding needed prior to COVID-19 and, fortunately, that has not been impacted.
Flat 15B was the song that launched the show- are there any other releases planned?
We do have some more releases planned! The next one will be a solo from the show. Stay tuned!
Follow Halls on Twitter (@HallsTheMusical) for more information on the show
Words by Orla McAndrew.