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Interview: Laura Corcoran talks about WONDERVILLE: 'It's only just getting started'

Interview: Laura Corcoran talks about WONDERVILLE: 'It's only just getting started'

The director of London's latest cabaret gives us a sneak peak of her new show.

With a new venue and a new emphasis, variety show Wonderville has returned to London this month following on from its debut season last year. Back then, the Palace Theatre outing was tagged "Magic and Illusion" whereas the new chapter sited in its own Piccadilly venue will be focusing on "Magic and Cabaret".

Its director, Laura Corcoran, has been a fixture on the cabaret scene for over a decade as one half of Frisky & Mannish, award-winning purveyors of cheeky and ingenious mash-ups. As well as being a performer, she is also a director working with the likes of Black Cat Cabaret's current show Halcyon Nights (which we reviewed last week).

We caught up with Laura to ask her about all things Wonderville.

We're glad to see Wonderville return for a new season. For those who are new to the show, what can they expect to see this time around?

We're bringing high-theatrical magic into the world of cabaret. It's a beautifully designed and very intimate space, where audiences are surrounded by the show and are closer than ever to the action. We're also mixing in even more variety from circus artists, sideshow and sensational musical acts to wow the audience in every possible way.

For those who love magic, it's an unmissable opportunity to see world-class acts up-close, and for those looking for something new and different, it's a veritable tapas of weird and wonderful turns.

Apart from making the wonderful PopCorn, what else were you up to during the pandemic and how did you get involved with Wonderville?

Most of my pandemic was spent being a mum! My daughter had just turned one, and we were in Vienna finishing a season with the Palazzo dinnershow when everything shut down. With so much uncertainty, I took the time to be with my little one. We did try for more live shows, but our timing was off and we kept getting thwarted by restrictions.

Just as I was about to lose my mind, the opportunity to make PopCorn with the Lawrence Batley Theatre came in, which pretty much saved me. The time away from the stage made me realise that my need to perform is definitely pathological, so I was quick to return to solo gigging as much as possible at the beginning of the year.

However, oddly enough, I kept being approached about directing work - a string I've always had to my bow, though generally on the backseat to Frisky & Mannish. Before long, I found myself picking through projects, and when Chris Cox, one of the creative driving forces behind the original Wonderville show, asked me to come on board, it was a no-brainer.

You've worked on other high-profile variety shows like La Soiree; meanwhile cabaret is making a comeback across the capital this summer. What would you say makes Wonderville distinctive?

Wonderville is the first cabaret show I've worked on that truly celebrates the magical. Our goal is to extend the sense of wonder out from the magic, into weird and wonderful circus and cabaret too. It's lovely to see a place where slightly oddball performers are perfectly at home.

A lot of cabaret at the moment has a very grown-up-audience focus - gorgeously sexy burlesque, fabulous envelope-pushing queer cabaret - but there isn't so much aimed at the whole family, and trying to thrill those who might not feel at home in a more nightlife-style setting. You may well see something outrageous, but we're here for enjoyable squirmy thrills, rather than the outright shocking.

You've been on the London cabaret scene for what seems forever (we remember seeing you at La Rêve just around the corner from Wonderville at the Cafe de Paris in 2011). What appeals to you so much about the art form?

I think, if you're easily bored, cabaret is a wonderful art form: you never play the same show twice! There's almost always some spontaneity, some genuine connection between you and the people in front of you, and often you're playing a different venue and a different line up every night.

You learn not just how to be excellent at whatever your skill is, but how to really respond to an audience, how to build an act that works and how to create a real moment on stage. It's absolute self-expression when you're writing and performing your own work, and when you collaborate with others to make something, it's challenging and thrilling working with similarly creative and self-motivated people. It's not easy to go back to doing what you're told after all that!

Just before the pandemic, you brought back PopLab in 2019. Can we expect more Frisky & Mannish shows in the near future?

For the moment, Mannish (aka Matthew Jones) and I are pursuing other projects. Matthew has a new musical running in Edinburgh at the moment, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder which he wrote with Jon Brittain (and is sensational!).

Alongside working on Wonderville, I also have two shows I helped develop in Edinburgh (Bittersweet with Sugarcoated Sisters, and Mess with Kirsty Mann), Halcyon Nights for Black Cat Cabaret running at Crazy Coqs until Aug 21st, and I am now staging a brand-new spiegeltent circus cabaret show Delirious in Monaco. But we can't wait to be back together working on something; we loved the challenge of writing for screen in PopCorn, so perhaps there might be something very different from us in the offing.

What are the plans for Wonderville after its current run ends on 30 October?

We've taken the opportunity to showcase some of the capital's finest magic and variety talent over the summer, and we're looking to hand-pick the best combination of acts for an even more ambitious, fully-realised magical experience for the autumn and winter. It's really only just getting started down at Wonderville, and we can't wait to show you what we've got!

Wonderville: Magic and Cabaret opens tonight.

From This Author - Franco Milazzo

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