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Kelcie Black plays Emily in A Billion Ways.

Kelcie Black plays Emily in A Billion Ways.

A Billion Ways climate change musical to open at Kino-Teatr

A brand new musical on climate change starts a three-day run at the Kino-Teatr on 14 November, featuring an impressive cast of local talent. Katy Weitz explains how A Billion Ways was created. Photos by Peter Mould.

The show was developed by script writer Sally Holloway, who says she wanted to write a ‘feel-good’ musical about climate change that inspires rather than scares.

“We want people to go out of the theatre happy and galvanised,” she said.

Sally got the idea for the plot when she was listening to Greta Thunberg on the radio and imagined what it would be like if Greta lived in Hastings, her Dad ran a big polluting company and her mum was a shopaholic. “Imagine the rows!” Sally laughed.

Real-life daughter and mother Chloe Thompson, left, as Chloe and Joanna Roffey as Judy.

Real-life daughter and mother Chloe Thompson, left, as Chloe and Joanna Roffey as Judy.

Amazingly, the roles of mother and daughter are being played by real-life mother and daughter team Eastbourne-based Joanna Roffey and her daughter, singer Chloe Thompson.

Joanna said: “We have been singing together since Chloe was in a baby bath.”

This is not the first time they have been on stage together. They both appeared in Oliver at the Assembly Hall theatre, Tunbridge Wells in 2009, but this is the first time they will have played mother/daughter in a production.

“We hope our real-life relationship will bring a warmth and a depth to our performances,” says Chloe, 21, who is a graduate of both the Italia Conti Academy and Stage Coach, where she had main roles in a number of productions including Grease, Aladdin and Hairspray.

Award-winning director

They are thrilled to be working with award-winning director Dominique Gerrard. Dominique moved to Hastings just over two years ago and is stunned by the range of talent on offer here. She has worked with a host of new writing talent for theatre, including Quintessence, which won Brighton Fringe Award for Outstanding Theatre. She was attracted to this show because she has always believed in the power of theatre to create value by moving and inspiring audiences.

“Climate change is the issue of our age and the music in this show is wonderful,” she said.

The show has 16 original songs, including a range of ballads, rock, blues, calypso, soul and of course a couple of big anthems that the writers hope will have the audience humming as they leave the theatre.

They were all written by Hastings-based musicians Rob Hill and Peter O’Donnell. Rob used to be a marketing man who commuted to London on the 6.30am train until he was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2014.

He has always written songs in his spare time but jokes that now his musical is being staged, he can take his song-writing seriously!

Rachel McCarron plays both Petra and Angie.

Rachel McCarron plays both Petra and Angie.

Inspired by youth strike protests

Rob was inspired to craft songs about climate change after reading about the local youth strike protests. He says he was moved by the passion of young people giving up their time to protest because they are so scared about their future.

One of the songs is even called Youth Strike and takes their slogans as its lyrics.

“So in a way, the kids are my co-writers,” he said. His co-writer is St Leonards-based musician, Peter O’Donnell.

“Peter takes raw cuts of my songs and sends them back sounding like polished radio hits. It’s amazing,” Rob said. It’s not surprising Peter has high standards – when he’s not writing and producing music, he is the resident singer at The Ritz in London.

Peter is currently working with the entire cast of seven, rehearsing their duets, trios and solos.

Singing like angels

“It’s a joy to do as they all sing like angels, it’s going to be a great musical,” he said.

Hastings and the surrounding area provides a huge pool of talent for him to work with. Oscar Smith from Battle Light Opera group is also delighted to be in the show. He plays a young scientist who seems to be on both sides at once.

Lisa Harmer-Pope plays Wilma and Robin Hayter is John.

Lisa Harmer-Pope plays Wilma and Robin Hayter is John.

Alongside him is Kelcie Black from Polegate playing young radical Emily, who wants to get arrested for the sake of the planet and also to annoy her sarcastic mother! Kelcie, at the age of 24, is a veteran of many musicals, including 9 To 5 and Rags, both performed at the London College of Music where she gained a first class degree in Musical Theatre.

The show also includes accomplished actors Lisa Harmer-Pope and Robin Hayter, who between them have a long list of acting credits on stage, screen and TV, including EastEnders, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Gentle Touch, Grange Hill and Metrosexuality, to name just a few. They first acted together over 20 years ago.

“We have been chosen to add gravitas to the show, apparently,” said Lisa, from St Leonards. “I think that means we’re old!”

The title song of the show – A Billion Ways – is a poignant song about how humans exploit the planet.

Writer Rob says: “We all know the consequences of climate breakdown because it is happening right now in front of our eyes, but A Billion Ways is also about the fact that there are a billion ways for us to put it back together again and it needs us all.

“Many people feel really scared and helpless in the face of such overwhelming news, but if we all come together, change can happen. Of course I’m hoping that there is definitive action by our governments too, but we all need to try and make sense of this in our lives and music brings us all together at this really critical time.”


A Billion Ways – A Musical about Climate Change Thursday 14-Saturday 16 November, Kino-Teatr, 43-49 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0EG. Tickets £20, concessions £18, under 16s £15, plus booking fee. Available from the theatre or online. 

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Posted 20:03 Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019 In: Music & Sound

Also in: Music & Sound

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