Created in 2014, Carpe Diem Emmie is a Midlands based Lifestyle, Theatre and Travel blog. Ran by Emmie, a 28 year old woman based in rural Leicestershire.

In the day Emmie works in a primary school where she is passionate about inclusion and mental health. In the evening she escapes to the cultural world.

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In The Rehearsal Room with Kristian Thomas Company for Evita.

Chatsworth Arts Centre, W Gate, Long Eaton, Nottingham NG10 1EF, UK

Outside the walls of The Old Mill Studio in Derby comes a thunderous wave of vocals that grabs your attention, so much so a local in the area complimented how pleasant it was to hear them rehearse. In the studio is Kristian Thomas Company who are rehearsing for their latest production, Andrew Lloyd-Webbers' Evita

Evita takes on the historical story of Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, a poor Argentinian girl who grows up to become the wife of the president of Argentina, worshipped and seen as a hero by the poor and working class. It isn't all that easy though and we see how Eva learns that her feminine wiles hold power among a culture, and a political system, run by men. 

The musical opened on Broadway in September 1979 and won an impressive seven 1980 Tony Awards including Best Book, Best Score and the Best Musical of the year. Even a year later in 1981, the cast recording was awarded a Grammy Award. Since productions of Evita have been performed all over the world and most recently in London's West End between 2006-7. It's most known for the 1996 Hollywood film starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. It is, in fact, one of the musicals I have never seen! 

Between 23-27th April,  Derby and Nottinghamshire based company, Kristian Thomas Company are performing the production with an incredible cast behind it at The Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton. The Kristian Thomas Company is now in its third year and is predominantly a theatre company creating electrifying, innovative and contemporary entertainment for its audiences. There are many strings to the bow of this company as it brings together professional working and aspiring performers, as well as young talent emerging through the ranks too. Evita is the first time the company will integrate together for a musical production. It's a fantastic collection of people from all walks of life to perform shows that sell at fantastic capacity. 

I had the opportunity to pop into their rehearsal room to find out more about the company, talk to some of the principal cast and see them in action as they prepare for curtain up. At the time I arrived, they were just finishing a run through of Act 1 which ends with A New Argentina. Eva is organising rallies for the descamisados (poor people) and gives them hope for a better future whilst Peron and his allies plot to dispose of anyone who stands in their way. 

Helen Perry takes on the title role as Eva, an ambitious and power-seeking female. She "sets her sights on how to make it where she wants to," says Helen. She is seen as a hero by the poor and the working class, her natural empathy is something that I noticed really resonated out of her rehearsal performance. "I find playing Eva incredibly empowering and she's so sure of herself!"

Thomas Simpson plays Che Guevara, a more impulsive, jealous and manipulative character. He is a political activist and the narrator of the show, he's a radical that isn't reluctant to ask tough questions and demand answers. "He's a rebel, he likes to cause trouble and cause a bit of chaos," says Thomas. He displays quite an important purpose in telling the story, as Evita is heavily sung and leaves little space for narrative through speech. "Eva and Che have never necessarily met each other but that's why it's quite important having Che as a narrator because they are seen as two iconic figures from that era, but their paths don't actually cross'.

"this is the first show we've ever done that has brought a new style to work with" - Alysha Gomes

Playing Eva's husband Peron is Chris Grantham. Peron is an officer in the Argentinean army who rises to become the Argentine President. He is a dignified, charming and authoritative male figure in Evita and a "people person" says Chris. "Peron and Eva have an interesting relationship because they used one another in order to achieve what they wanted. Peron uses Eva as the face for the people and Eva uses Peron for the power of Argentina," explains Chris "but in fact, in the end, we see how there is love really there between these two characters". 

There have been challenges with producing Evita as Resident Director Alysha Gomes explains; 
"Normally we do modern productions like Bad Girls, Little Shop of Horrors, Our House etc and this is the first show we've ever done that has brought a new style to work with. People who have seen Evita before will know it's usually sung one-sided by Che and from his perspective. I wanted our audiences to be given the opportunity to make up their own minds and opinions on Eva. We want to really tackle the pre-conceptions on her and I think Helen's portrayal of Eva really allows this to happen".

"From my perspective, you normally have a script to learn and it's not been. Although you've had to learn songs and they can be seen to be easier it becomes monotonous" says Helen Perry, "quite a lot of the show has the same tune so it can be difficult to remember which is where. And also Eva goes on such a journey in the show, from the age of 15 to 24 in an hour and then the emotions change because she's dying. It's hard to pick up those emotions instantly and be able to perform them as naturally as possible". 

"There is no version of Che and these characters, they're real people and that's what has made it challenging. You can't follow the same process as an actor like you would have done" - Thomas Simpson

Thomas Simpson said what surprised him about this musical was that "because this isn't made up characters. Unlike other musicals that I've performed in, you can't make it up and add your own spin on it. There is no version of Che and these characters, they're real people and that's what has made it challenging. You can't follow the same process as an actor like you would have done."  

I think audiences will be pleasantly surprised by KTC's production of Evita. For someone like myself who has never seen it, I'm really intrigued by the way it has been written and how this company are portraying their iconic characters as such. As Chris Grantham said at the end of our interview "hopefully our audiences will see something new from KTC with this musical and it will attract new audiences to us!"

Kristian Thomas Company is performing Evita at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton between 23-27th April. You can book your tickets here.


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