London Calling with Champagne Charlie: QUADROPHENIA's Tom Critchley

London Calling with Champagne Charlie: QUADROPHENIA's Tom Critchley

As a musical Pete Townsend’s rock opera TOMMY was a huge success on record, on film and on stage. Now he and his team have allowed Broadway World exclusive access behind the scenes as he prepares to stage his other great opus QUADROPHENIA.

Set in the early 60’s, we watch, feel and hear the tale of mod mad, scooter riding hero played on stage now by Ryan O’Donnell unfold as a complete staged experience.

Along with Townshend, Broadway World will get exclusive access to watch, read and hear about the production from all sides as the cast prepare for a national tour prior to a West End run and transfer beyond. Starting today we have director Tom Critchley who has worked as a theatre director and side by side with Townsend on a number of his musical projects and brought them to life.

I caught up with him in Plymouth as he and his cast prepare for the start of the UK tour.

 

Champagne Charlie

What / where were you when you 1st heard & saw the original LP and film version of Quadrophenia?

Tom Critchley

I was offered a ticket to go and see The Who at Charlton football ground whilst having an illicit cigarette during break-time at school on the morning of the concert. I heard the music for the first time then and was fascinated by the album itself the following day when a friend I had been to the concert with played and showed it to me... 

Champagne Charlie

You worked for a long time on all aspects of theatre - how did you get to work with Pete Townshend?

Tom Critchley

I approached him to become a patron of Kneehigh Theatre when I was working with them in Cornwall, co-ordinating a capital lottery project for a mobile theatre to fold out of the back of Lorries! The project was never realised but we developed a relationship which resulted in Pete asking me to become his partner in a music theatre production company under the auspices of his Eel Pie Publishing Ltd...

Champagne Charlie

What did developing Psychoderelict in New York involve?

Tom Critchley

Working closely with director Ethan Silverman and musical director Ted Baker on setting up a song workshop featuring some of the best pit musicians on Broadway and the actor Peter Gallagher, perhaps best known over here for The OC. Despite the commitment of New York producer John Scher, Pete decided that the resulting detailed treatment was not of sufficient merit to proceed with at that time...

Champagne Charlie

How did working in other places like with Welfare State in Cumbria and India change your outlook on work?

Tom Critchley

Having initially started work in the old style regional theatre world, I realised that it was in danger of becoming part of a museum culture. When I was fortunate enough to receive an Arts Council trainee directorship bursary in my thirties, I decided that I wanted to search far and wide for influences that might lead to the making of more engaging contemporary theatre, but still for 'popular' audiences rather than the elite who seemed to be well enough catered for by the theatrical establishment...

Champagne Charlie

Was a stage musical of Quadrophenia always on the agenda or did you see problems in adapting it that say ‘Tommy’ didn't present?

Tom Critchley

It was first on my agenda when Jeff Young and I discussed it whilst working on his Family Values @ Bristol Old Vic in 1993. The job of adapting it has been hard but will hopefully prove worth it if an audience connects with it. For me it is the best narrative rock music ever written. I'm a bit too young to really get Tommy. Jeff, John O'Hara, our musical supreme and I, believe Quadrophenia to be Pete Townshend's masterpiece...

Champagne Charlie

When did writing / working on it actually start?

Tom Critchley

We first produced a treatment in 2002 which was commissioned by 4 of the Big Ten regional producing theatres, which included Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Champagne Charlie

Was it a continuous process or did it have its stops and starts...

Tom Critchley

Stops and starts as far as a group of us working on it, but I had no choice but to continue with it through thick and thin if it was ever going to be happen. There have been some very thin times when my wife, my accountant, Pete Townshend and I, at the same or different times, have seriously doubted my sanity at persevering with it...

Champagne Charlie

Did you have a clear idea from the start how it would transfer from 'page to stage?'

Tom Critchley

Jeff and I decided that it must be set inside the head of the central character as the original album is...

Champagne Charlie

How closely and to what extent has Pete Townshend been involved i.e. day to day or reviewing and approving at each stage?

Tom Critchley

More or less at different times. As soon as it was decided that I would direct the 'workshop' production at Royal Welsh College in Cardiff it was impossible for me to continue working directly with Pete. We then got that initial version up to show him what we might be able to do with it. It is resolutely our adaptation of his original concept but he has helped on every aspect to a greater or lesser degree. Conversations such as those with him in Plymouth during rehearsals are always illuminating and will go towards making the production richer in every way...

Champagne Charlie

What challenges did you see in moving it from film/ album to stage?

Tom Critchley

We are resolutely adapting the album not the film. The music is of primary importance in our story-telling, which is why we have revived the term 'rock opera' to help describe what we are doing. It is not intended to be like other 'musical theatre'. It will certainly be different and will hopefully be as good as if not better...

Champagne Charlie

Why is it relevant to today's audience?

Tom Critchley

We will truly have to ask them to find out, but the passage form adolescence to adulthood has arguably been historically the most fertile period of our lives in the production of popular culture. It is the age when we ask most questions in our life and it is only through asking questions that we can bring about the change that is vital to the future of human existence! I believe that Quadrophenia will truly appeal to rebels and adolescents of all ages...

Champagne Charlie

What has being Creative Producer on other Townshend music theatre projects involved?

Tom Critchley

Working with a host of talented people during the last ten years:

  • To bring 'the one that got away', Lifehouse, to fruition with the BBC...
  • Getting Psychoderelict to the point where it had been green lighted as an off Broadway project in New York...
  • Spending a lot of time and effort in trying to get others to proceed with Quadrophenia before realising that it might be best to surround myself with the best possible people...

Champagne Charlie

How have you represented the 4 sides of the hero on stage?

Tom Critchley

Theatrically, dramatically, truthfully and hopefully entertainingly...

Champagne Charlie

In 'life' they were the 4 sides of the Who?

Tom Critchley

Our adaptation doesn't deal with this directly. In our view it is a universal piece of immensely powerful popular art that has come a long way since its conception...

Champagne Charlie

Has directing and casting been 'plain sailing’. What difficulties have come up you have managed to overcome in the staging of the show?

Tom Critchley

Directing is never plain sailing if you are setting others and yourself the right challenges to create something extraordinary.

Our casting director, Pippa Ailion invited 350 wonderful performers to audition. We have sixteen of the most talented, committed and exciting young performers in the country along with a fantastically talented young band of 9 musicians.

Fresh difficulties arise everyday during the rehearsal process, as they should, but ultimately our aim is to tell our story in the most entertaining and engaging way imaginable...

Champagne Charlie

What will make it a theatrical experience as opposed to a staging of the songs with linking dialogue?

Tom Critchley

The amazing hard work and astonishing commitment of the whole team that comprise our collective effort...

Champagne Charlie

Your future plans after the show tour?

Tom Critchley

Walking the dog on the beach!

 


Related Articles

From This Author Charlie Salem



Before you go...