Comedy gets actorly: Charlie Hanson produces comedy operetta Through The Looking Screen
Andrew Mickel5 July 2012
Long-time Gervais collaborator Charlie Hanson tells us about his new production at the Edinburgh Fringe this August...
A one-woman operetta about stalking love on the internet, Through The Looking Screen is very much a tale of our times: twenty-seven year old Londoner Annabel Clark is obsessed with her colleague, but disillusioned by dating mishaps and social awkwardness, she is convinced that the only way for her to be united with the object of her desire is to approach Sebastian online. Empowered and armed with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, will Annabel ever get her man?
The show is produced by Anne Chmelewsky and – cue our comedy ears perking up – Charlie Hanson, the producer of many a Gervais vehicle, including Extras, Life's Too Short and Derek (which he talks about below).
He answered some questions we had about why comedy fans should get into opera...
Are we looking at an operatic comedy or a comedy opera?
It is actually an operetta. The whole piece is set to music composed by Anne Chmelewsky who also wrote the libretto and it is beautifully sung by mezzo soprano, Clare Presland, who recently sang with the English National Opera. She also happens to be a very funny actress.
What attracted you to the project?
I had worked with Anne on her opera version of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's The Office, which we developed for Comic Relief a few years ago. When I saw an early preview of this show I was very impressed. I am not an opera buff, in fact I never go to the opera. But I found this to be totally accessible, funny and relevant. It was a unique mix of comedy and opera and I told Anne straight away that I would work with her to develop it further.
It sounds like it could be a big production: what sort of scale is it on?
It is a one-woman comic opera with accompanist Elizabeth Challenger on piano, and a backdrop of projected images. So a small scale production that lends itself to touring. Perfect for Edinburgh in fact, though the number of performances has meant we have needed an alternate singer, Amy J Payne to share performances with Clare. Amy is very funny too.
How many real-life online experiences can we expect brought to the stage?
It covers internet dating, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites using an array of Apple devices. Basically it demonstrates how easy it is to lead a virtual social life without ever venturing out into the real world.
Do you have any social networking nightmares of your own?
I use Facebook and Twitter but am cautious not to expose too much of my personal life. Both take up too much of my time. And I now find complete strangers use both to contact me with the aim of getting me to read their scripts!
Separately, how is work coming on for Derek?
It's all going well. Ricky has written most of the scripts and since we have already made a pilot, most of the regular cast are in place. We are finalising other casting and locations at the moment and pre-production has started. We start filming in London mid August, once the Olympics are over and Edinburgh is in full swing.
Through The Looking Screen is at the Underbelly Cowgate from 2-26 August at 3.35pm; get tickets to the show at the Ed Fringe site here.
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