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08 June 2022

Q&A with Never Never writer James Watson

What is Never Never about?

Powered by the Summer of 1964, this groovy new musical (inspired by J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan and Wendy) celebrates a heart-warming story of fun, friendship and youth culture through a 60’s mash up of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and pop.

This is a brand-new journey to Neverland which promises all the fun of the fair, where life is one big game of adventure and you never never need to grow up. We’ve got rock ‘n’ roll radio pirates, lost Mods and a host of new characters each with their own ideas about growing up as an all-new generation battle for the beaches of Neverland in what can only be described as an awfully big musical adventure.

What music will be featured?

The music is all original, written especially for the production by local musician and composer Andrew Linham, but you can expect influences from all the favourite 50’s and 60’s rock ‘n’ roll, soul and pop artist, including: The Penguins, The Platters, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Bill Haley and the Comets, The Who, The Small Faces, The Beatles, and The Monkees!

How many QYouth members will be participating?

The production involves over 180 young people from our youth theatre, aged between 6 and 18, most of whom you will see on stage, while some take backstage roles and others have supported the development of the show in rehearsals.

Why should people come and see Never Never?

It’ll be a great night out. This is a big show, full of colour and great tunes, with a story everyone can relate to. It will be lots of fun, suitable for all ages (young and young at heart) and is a joyful celebration of 30 years of brilliant youth theatre activity at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.

How did the show come about?

This is the second full scale musical Andrew and I have written together, our first being a new musical adaptation of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in 2017 (though we’ve worked together many times staging large scale youth and community productions). We knew we wanted to write another show specially for the youth theatre at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. We wanted to capture and celebrate the journey of the young people we work with each week and create something that showcases them at their very best. ‘Peter Pan’ is such a great story and the themes of childhood and growing up, coupled with the threat of consequences and responsibility is timeless and hugely relatable. We wanted to use this story as a platform to explore what these themes felt like for young people today.

And it’s been quite a journey over the last few years (including two postponements due to covid!). The show has been in development for nearly 5 years, having gone through several rewrites. All our youth theatre members have been invited to take part in workshops at different stages of the production’s development, sharing ideas, trying out songs and scenes and feeding back on sections of the show before we entered rehearsals this spring. We’ve watched many of our youth theatre members grow up through this process, and offer opinions and perspectives at different ages and stages of their own development in line with some of the characters.

As we researched the show, we also discovered valuable and fascinating links to local East London and Essex history, especially connected to the 1960’s Mods and Rockers riots, Southend’s seaside destination status and Radio Caroline, the UK’s first pirate radio station. These have all (with a little artistic licence) informed the creation of our Neverland and the young people’s exploration of the notion of youth subcultures and the creation of the teenagers stemming from the late 1950’s.

What has the creative process been like/have there been any challenges?

It’s not easy. We wanted to write a great show that celebrates the young people we work with. It needed to focus on a big ensemble story, told by as many characters as possible, split into equal sections for each of our 8 youth theatre groups to have meaningful content to perform which is also essential to the story being told. And that’s before we start to get creative!

So often the hardest bit is working out what to keep. We wrote so much great (at least we thought so!) material, but not all of it was right for the story we ultimately wanted to tell. There must be at least 3 more shows of material sitting in a drafts folder on my laptop that didn’t make the cut!

Never Never runs at the theatre from 28 to 30 July

To book tickets click here

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