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Bemused - the Teddy Hall musical

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Last term saw the launch of the first-ever original College musical, performed for three nights to sell-out audiences. For those who missed out, Bemused is now available to watch online via our YouTube channel. Thanks to Matthew Carter (2014, English) for the following article about the musical:

In a bold and daring project that lasted over six months, five Teddy Hall writers, who go by the names of Matthew Carter, Amelia Gabaldoni, Rebecca Ipe, Corinna Kulicke, and Kalina Naidoo set out to answer the questions that everyone’s been asking: What is your Imagination? What happens if you lose it? And why is it that nefariously wicked ex-conductors are always stealing muses? Teddy Hall’s new musical project, performed on 5 to 7 May 2016 entirely by Hall students, and overseen by the brave fools Matthew Carter and Amelia Gabaldoni, attempted to find an answer…

The project’s aims were grand: to write, compose, direct and perform a new musical, with the input of students from across both the JCR (undergraduate students) and MCR (postgraduates). The five writers started workshopping ideas at the end of October – forming characters, fleshing out scenes, and creating a narrative arc – and then went away over the Christmas vacation to write two scenes each.  Returning in January, the scenes were pieced together, revised, rewritten, and by 4th Week a script was completed. Bemused was born!

The musical was a light-hearted, entertaining and comic romp centred around the idea (influenced by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and various classical precedents) that everyone’s creativity or imagination is manifested in a personal muse, who can see you and interact with you, but you (their ‘bemused’) can’t see them. The two main protagonists, twins Peter (a musician) and Ada (a scientist) have been able to see their muses, Calli and Clio, since birth, and as a result have a strong and healthy relationship with their creative energies and activities. Peter struggles to maintain an income as a singing teacher to support his demanding socialite girlfriend Kate, as well as juggling Calli’s disparaging and at times flirty comments. Ada is forging her way to a massive scientific breakthrough whilst attempting to understand relationships. She is helped along by her muse Clio who – suffering an identity crisis and wishing to be a writers’ muse so that she can woo Keith Gull’s muse Athena – attempts to demystify the muse/bemused relationship for Ada.

Julian (Ed Vyvyan) performing accompanied by the piano
The evil Julian (Ed Vyvyan), stealer of muses

When the nefarious ex-conductor Julian, who is also able to see his muse Cordelia, steals everyone’s muses in an attempt to regain his star status, Ada and Peter must find a way of reconnecting everyone to their source of inspiration. Along the way, Julian’s suppressed muse Cordelia finally controls his wicked designs, and Kate turns her back on her self-centred lifestyle, influenced by her grotesque “it-girl” best friend Millicent, and is reunited with her repressed muse who was quashed due to gruesome childhood experiences of being forced to dance.

After a series of rehearsals, with the music led by our ever-patient and talented Musical Director Viraj Alimchandani, the cast performed to a sold-out audience each night, and provided a thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious evening. James Tibbles as Peter led the cast admirably, with some beautiful vocals and a very confident and professional performance, balanced by the sensuous and at times outrageously flirty Sophie Caws as Calli. Lisa Haseldine provided the perfect counter-balance to James’s control as the extremely geeky Ada, giving one of the greatest comic performances of the show, notable in particular for her laugh like a clogged drain, and forging a beautiful relationship with Elaine Robertson as Clio. Their duet was like a Julie Andrews song, and both of them were extremely funny and enchanting. Ed Vyvyan, in keeping with his character Julian’s intentions, was in danger of stealing the show with his outrageous pantomime performance, swanning across the stage and delivering his lines with perfect, bombastic comic timing; the audience were in stitches, and his grandiose and camp solo brought the roof down. They were all ably supported by an extremely strong ensemble, including a scathingly fierce Ines Stevens as Millicent, and an emotionally astute and varied performance from Jacqueline Penn as Kate. The musical garnered rave reviews, and raised £471.31, which will be split between two charities: Oxford Mind and the White Lodge Rehabilitation Centre.

Ada (Lisa Haseldine) and Clio (Elaine Robertson) on stage together
Ada (Lisa Haseldine) and her muse Clio (Elaine Robertson)

Thanks must go to Director of Music, Chris Watson, for providing the support and encouragement to undertake such a momentous project, and to Lauren Jackson, for being a thoroughly organised Producer for the show. To Sue McCarthy, for allowing us to use the ODH and for helping us with bookings and timings. To Claire Hooper, for her help promoting the event; the College authorities, Dean and Principal, for permitting this project to go ahead; Dr Roger Benson, for the Amalgamated Clubs funding; and Professor Robert Wilkins, for always taking an interest and endeavouring to answer logistical questions for us. Most of all though, our thanks to all who came out to share their talents on stage or back stage; to the audience for being so supportive and actually coming; and to the College for being so accommodating. It was a wonderful project to be part of, bringing the entire college community together, and really was a testament to and manifestation of Teddy Hall spirit.

For the full cast list, director's team, writers and composers, please download the programme.