The Letter Room talk about ‘Five Feet in Front’ & The Lowry’s ‘Developed With’ scheme.

Hi, we are The Letter Room. We are part of The Lowry’s Developed With Scheme, and our new show ‘Five Feet in Front’ previews in The Aldridge Studio at The Lowry on Thu 25 & Fri 26 June.

We make brand new musical theatre (Loud Noises and Bold Choices), and we want people that see our shows to feel like they’ve been to an event, a party, or in the case of ‘Five Feet in Front‘: a hoedown. As part of our relationship with The Studio at The Lowry we were able to spend two weeks Researching and Developing our new show: set in an old American town in the midst of a Dust Bowl storm.

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We were just two days into our Salford Adventure, before we were thrown in at the theatrical deep end, and asked to perform for The Lowry Studio Showcase. This annual event is where all the artists that The Lowry have supported over the last twelve months give a brief glimpse at what they’re currently up to, to a whole host of programmers and producers.

It was great to try out some new music and a bit of text, but it was also lovely to see what other theatre companies are up to. We are so excited to see Kill The Beast’s new show, and saw an excerpt from the always brilliant Laura Lindow. I think we were all in agreement that it was a scary prospect sharing half-ideas with a crowd of theatre experts, but sometimes you just have to take the risks and hope that they pay off.

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The rest of our week was no calmer. We saw Idle Motion’s magical ‘Shooting With Light’, stayed up to silly o’clock discussing ideas in The Lowry’s canteen (in fact one member of The Lowry team, Steve, did have to come up to us at one point and comment that we were spending a lot of time there – what can we say, we like our food hot and cheap!)

There was a lot of games and exploring going on throughout the week. We wore face masks and sunglasses, and plunged the room into darkness. We wanted to see what it was like to communicate with one another when you are in the thick of a Dust Cloud. We also all had a go at seducing each other, which was made difficult by the fact that you had to be instructed by your ‘team’, who were at the other end of the room and could only talk to you in 20 second bursts. A typical verbatim conversation happened like this:

After the seduction seems to be going very wrong

Me: “What do I do? What do I do?

My Team: “Just say, just say… you’re going to kill her.

Me: “I’m going to kill her?

My Team: “Yeah yeah yeah, just say ‘at the end of the night, you know I’m going to kill you’.

Me: “But, but why? I don’t think that willwon’t it just?…ok, Ill do it.” TIME

Needless to say, there were varying levels of success in this exercise. But the week was amazing, we learnt lots and everything from grandmothers footsteps to writing angry political speeches, helped us get closer and closer to making the show.

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Week 2 of our Lowry trip took us down to the big smoke (London) where Matt Eames, Associate Studio Programmer, had arranged a series of workshops and classes with some very very cool Musical Theatre professionals. We were apprehensive going into this week. For all we’re a musical theatre company, none of us have ever had formal musical theatre training – just lessons here and there.

The brilliant Helen Siveter, who can currently be seen in Memphis on the West End, took an almost sadistic satisfaction in putting us through a fitness bootcamp. After every session we resembled steamed lobsters lying on the floor. From planks to sit ups to press ups, there wasn’t a part of the body that wasn’t aching by the end of the week.

Anne Leatherland walked us through our vocal paces, and whipped us into shape. Turns out our posture leaves a lot to be desired! Anne was like a wizard, we had such a great time with her.

The wonderful Carolyn Humphries dissected and analysed our songs. She helped us add harmonies and basslines, and showed us how she constructed songs. And we also performed some solos and got audition and technique feedback from the fantastic Matt White. Both Matt and Caroline taught us such an important lesson about acting through the song: not just hiding behind the instruments and performing it, but telling the story.

Part of these sessions was about building up out musical theatre skills as an ensemble in order for us to improve our work and take our knowledge and skills and apply it to the very specific type of work we make. This was what was so brilliant about these sessions. Some of us are very skilled dancers, some of us barely do the Macarena at Christmas parties, but we left these sessions with a new found confidence in our abilities, and a better understanding of how to perform and tell the story on stage. We felt very lucky to be given the opportunity.

And here we are now. We have just a couple of weeks before we dive, head-first, into rehearsals. Tickets for our show can be bought online, and keep in touch with us for some sneak preview songs that we’ll be releasing shortly. See you soon.

The Letter Room