This is more than enough reason to chat with the promising composer and get further information about the creation of his chamber musical.

By: Apr. 07, 2024
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Interview: STUART MATTHEW PRICE of DAVOR/DANACH (BEFORE/AFTER) at THEATRE SPIELRAUM The Musical, written by Stuart Matthew Price, a love story about a couple, Ami and Ben, getting a second chance of happiness,a second chance for their love, is having its German Speaking Premiere at the Theatre Spielraum in Vienna, starring Denise Jastraunig as Ami and Florian Sebastian Fitz as Ben. Robert G. Neumayr, responsible for the German translation, also directs this chamber musical.

We travel back and forth in time with Ami and Ben to relive their original relationship and compare it to the development of their new one. BEFORE/AFTER is an exciting piece of art written by an exciting performer; we all remember him recreating the unique part of Riff-Raff at the ROCKY HORROR SHOW EUROPEAN TOUR. BEFORE/AFTER has been in many different countries before; now, it is time to bring this piece of art into the German-speaking area for a strictly limited run at the Theatre Spielraum in the heart of Vienna

This is more than enough reason to chat with the promising composer and get further information about the creation of his chamber musical.

BWW: In the show, the protagonists get a second chance at their love, which doesn't go well in the first place. It is a beautifully crafted story, but let's start from scratch; when did you come up with this concrete idea, and what was first in your mind, the story or the melody?

SMP: Back in October 2013, I received a "tweet" from a nice woman in Tokyo, Japan named Emi Yoshida. She was wondering whether I would like to write a small 85 minute two actor musical that was a love story with hope at the end. I hadn't written a full musical at this point so the opportunity scared me and excited me at the same time. Without hesitation, I accepted the challenge. That's how the show came about and the initial parameters already set for the show. However, the concrete idea evolved over the coming months as I explored examples of what other two-hander musicals had come before and how they were set up. For example, 'The Last 5 Years' by Jason Robert Brown told the story of a relationship from their individual perspectives only Cathy started from the end of the relationship and Jamie started from the beginning. I couldn't use that concept. Andrew Lippa's 'John and Jen' told a brother and sister story in two halves; the first being the siblings together and the second being an older Jen who has named her son John after her now passed away brother. Another concept I didn't feel would work for my love story. This is when I developed the structural idea for 'Before After' as I felt this hadn't been done before (although I may be completely wrong!). I wondered whether, instead of just doing a story in two timelines (before and after an event), I could explore both timelines running alongside each other. This meant switching between the BEFORE and the AFTER, allowing the audience to see both relationships develop simultaneously and in parallel. To add drama and to ensure that both actors could realistically do this without playing multiple characters, I decided that the character named Ben would have an accident and lose his memory so that when he and his use of a better term, ex-partner named Ami came to meet again, he doesn't have a clue who she is, but she definitely knows who he is and remembers everything about their previous relationship. So the fun part is that the audience knows this information within five minutes of the show and is sort of complicit to the truth being withheld from Ben as Ami tries to give their relationship a second chance. Obviously, Ami sounds like a very selfish person right now, but she has her reasons for not telling Ben the truth straight away, so don't judge her too harshly too quickly! 

As for story or music coming first? Story...always the story. I can't even begin to work on something without knowing the general arc of the show and each scene. However, I have always written music and lyrics, but could not say that I am a book writer. I did try to write the book for this show initially, but it became clear early on that I needed someone to collaborate with and then when I met Timothy Knapman. He managed to take all my ideas, keep the ones that worked and inspired him, but then throw out the nonsense that only confused and suffocated the heart and romancer of the story. Honestly, meeting Tim is the reason this show even has a life today. He made it work and has been a wonderful collaborator to work with. As a result, he would write a scene and send it on with notes, thoughts, or even draft lyrical ideas that I could work with, and then I'd get to work on writing the songs. It was a quick process for us, but somehow, everything just flowed between us effortlessly. Sometimes I would get a scene and not expect the twists or turns thrown at me so was as much surprised by the story as the audience are for the first time! When you exist in such an open, present, and instinctive writing process like that, the music comes so much easier, and the characters can really sing.

BWW: The show recently played at the Southwark Playhouse and has its German-speaking premiere in Vienna. There is no better place for this project than the Austrian Capital. Who came up with the idea of bringing Before/After to Austria and translating it into German (a tremendous task, to be honest)

SMP: The show has had many different incarnations over the last ten years. We had five years worth of productions in Tokyo, Japan, by the company Musical-Za (translated into Japanese by Emi Yoshida, who I mentioned earlier), a tour of the Netherlands by the ever-impressive new production company called Oatmilk (translated into Dutch by Elly Scheele) and then the eventual UK Premiere production at Southwark Playhouse by Grey Area Theatre Company. So, the show has been on a wonderful journey as far as translations are concerned. We came close to a German language production about seven years ago, but it never managed to happen. We always hoped it might come around again, and thankfully, we were approached by director Robert G. Neumayr about coming to the Theatre Spielraum in Vienna, and he offered to do the translation too, as he had done this before on other productions, etc. He has done a tremendous job, not just with the translation but with the production as a whole. He has assembled a wonderful team, fantastic actors and we couldn't be more thrilled to premiere our show in Vienna. 

BWW: Following Ami and Ben's love story is like traveling in time, a challenging task for the actors. When did you realize you wanted it to become a Two Person piece?

SMP: As I mentioned earlier, it always had to be a show with two people in it. I think it all came down to logistics and budgets if I'm honest. Having only two people in the show and three in the orchestra means it's cheaper to produce, can be done in small or large houses, and allows you to recast quickly and easily should you wish to do so. In Japan, productions tend to double or triple cast roles and they rotate the acting teams during the run. I think the original production of Before After in 2014 had three Ami's and three Ben's, all within the short week run! 

The most attractive part of all of this for Tim and I was seeing whether we could create a dramatic piece that is only two people and layered with the complexities that our story has. Isn't theatre more exciting when you can be challenged in some way? For the audience, of course, but for writers...most definitely.

BWW: We totally agree; getting challenged in one way or the other is one of the most amazing things theatre can offer an audience. Vienna is looking forward to the Opening of the first German version of Before/After. Thank you for your time; keep writing exceptional music, and never stop challenging your audiences and actors.



Wednesday, 10.4.2024, 19:30 (Opening Night)
10. / 11.-13. / 15. / 18.-20. / 22./ 25.-27. April and
1.- 4. May 2024
for tickets and further information visit:
Denise Jastraunig - Ami
Florian Sebastian Fitz -  Ben
Director -  Robert G. Neumayr
Musical Director/Piano - Bernhard Jaretz
Patrick Henriquez/Niko Georgiades -  Guitar
Maike Clemens/Margarethe Vogler - Cello
Costumes -  Anna Pollack
Lightning Design - Tom Barcal
Florian Sebastian Fitz (Ben) and Denise Jastraunig (Ami) ©Barbara Pállfy


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