01 Sep Exceptional, Exciting and Entertaining: Bus Stop Theatre Co. Harlow
by Ian Beckett
When you have a vision, sometimes it’s hard to ignore it. Although I don’t know her that well, Laura Baker is clearly, in my opinion, a creative visionary. Laura has a vision where creative talent is harnessed, given the space, the freedom, the love and care to grow and then, to be made easily accessible to as many people as possible but most of all to the people who need it most. Laura has an impressive track record of bringing her visions to life and on Wednesday 30th August, Bus Stop Theatre Co presented a fabulous showcase of their current work and their work in progress at the Phoenix Live Lounge in Harlow’s Town Centre.
Bus Stop Theatre are a new musical theatre and acting company for young people over the age of 17 years old. In introducing the company to the audience Laura made it clear that she wanted to create a company where cost – rehearsal and performance fees – were not a barrier to talented young people, many of whom are still in education, being able to explore and develop their talent and perform to a live audience.
Musical Theatre is a perfect vehicle for Bus Stop as the current company, six of whom performed in this showcase, demonstrated that they are already accomplished singers and actors with skills in dance and movement. And they’re having fun and it’s infectious.
From the first number, “Positive” from Legally Blonde with Rosie Lawson taking the lead, each member of the crew was given the opportunity to shine – and they did without exception. Matt Hunt demonstrated appropriate command as General Chang in “Be a Man” from Disney’s Mulan and if anyone thought that Micky Clark’s camp Chin-Po was veering towards stereotypical they needn’t have worried for his stature and demeanour transformed and grew exponentially as he made the role of Mr Mushnik from “Little Shop of Horrors” his own – where did that voice come from? Laura’s unconventional approach to directing was reflected in the rendition of “On my Own” from Les Miserable, sung by not one but two actresses as Eponine, with a balletic narrative displayed by Rosie Lawson and Matt Hunt. The vocal range, passion and strength of the voices of Anya Hennessy and Ella Brady was spine-tinglingly good. The collective power of this ensemble was brought to the fore with two numbers from the musical Rent: “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme”, with Amy Wyatt in particular showing her versatility.
In the second half of the evening, Bus Top showcased their work in progress on “Little Shop of Horrors” with first four numbers of the show. This was where the potential and strength of the company was clear. It was hard to believe when their amount of preparation time was revealed as days and not weeks and their intention to stage the full show later in the year must be supported. As special mention has to go to Rhea and Evie Baker who took it in turns to “lend a hand” and an abundance of fun as the plant “Audrey 2”!
Bus Stop Theatre are currently fundraising to bring their work to a wider audience and are well worth philanthropic and community support. Their crowdfunding page is: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/busstoptheatrecompany?utm_id=1&utm_term=2XgdnqGBx
Long term, Bus Stop aim to set-up a Theatre in Education Company as a social enterprise bringing the GCSE English curriculum to life for schools who may not be able to afford to send their pupils to the West End to access quality live theatre. This objective will build on a legacy of Harlow people determined to keep our creative excellence on the map.