Spotlight On… Writer of Muted, Sarah Henley

Interval Productions present  Muted A New British Musical
The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU  Wednesday 7th December 2016 – Saturday

Use the following contact details to book tickets: http://bunkertheatre.com/ and 0207 234 0486.

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I chatted to Sarah about the piece…

Tell me about Muted and your inspiration for it

Muted came about in a fairly round about way. It started as a show called After the Turn and, unlike a lot of musical theatre projects, began with the music and the book came second. Tim (Prottey-Jones) had a great album and an idea of some characters and storylines – particularly the fact that the leading man didn’t speak. This obviously came with its own challenges in terms of writing – dialogue is not that easy when one character can’t say anything! However, it’s interesting what comes out when someone is trying to fill the silence. Since After the Turn and the workshop performances at The Courtyard, it’s been through a lot of development. Music and lyrics have been re-written and added to help blend the story more – Tim and Tori Allen-Martin (music and lyrics) have worked hard with me to make the show feel ‘whole’ so you wouldn’t be aware as an audience member that the songs came first.

In terms of inspiration I love the idea of intimate, personal stories and how characters can mentally affect one another – I hope everyone will know someone like one of the characters in Muted and can relate to it in their own way. I was keen to write an ensemble piece rather than have one great part and a lot of ‘supporting actors’ – I like everyone to have a story arc.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

The first draft came very quickly – in about two weeks! However, as they always say, ‘musicals are rewritten’, so the difficult part has been getting it right (or as right as it can be!). I’ve had loads of support on this – both from actors who’ve been involved from the start, Tori and Tim, Jamie Jackson the director, as well as the Bunker team and various other industry friends. I’m hoping that we’re getting to a point now where it’s the best that it can be!

How will The Bunker lend itself to the piece?

One of the great things about The Bunker is its intimacy – the audience are on three sides and are so close they can see everything. Muted is a piece where you really get to witness the psychological impact people have on one another, particularly when they’re suffering themselves. I think the Bunker will make Muted feel really immersive and enable the audience to get really close to the characters.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Well, firstly – and I know ‘entertainment’ can be a dirty word in this industry – I’d love the audience to come away having had a brilliant night. In terms of a ‘message’, I think the overall message in the piece revolves around forgiveness both of self and others, and how far that’s possible depending on the gravity of the act that requires it. Also, there’s two very manipulative characters in the story and re-reading it now it’s interesting to see ‘how’ that manipulation happens and to look at where it occurs in your own life.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

I’m still a budding writer! I guess one of the best things I’ve done is to collaborate with others and make my own work. I put on my first play, Getting Out, on the fringe 8 years ago on no budget; the experience of working with actors and a director is invaluable. There are a lot of ‘schemes’ out there for young writers, but if you’re not careful you can find yourself spending so much time applying for them and writing ‘three scenes’ pandering to briefs that fulfil funding requirements etc., that you never actually get the play that you want to write heard. As a playwright you need to hear voices on your plays – it’s no good on your computer, so do whatever you can to make that happen. I’ve been going for 8 years – support is not readily available and often the gatekeepers aren’t looking for work like mine, but I’m not going to stop… a DIY attitude is something to nurture!

Thanks for a fascinating interview, Sarah!

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Spotlight On… Director Of Captain Flinn and The Pirate 2: The Magic Cutlass, Hal Chambers

Captain Flinn and the Pirate  Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass  UK Tour:

September – November 2016

Following a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass sets sail on a UK tour.

Tickets are available from individual theatre box offices: See http://lespetitstheatre.com/

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I caught up with Hal Chambers, the Director:

Tell me about Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass and your vision for it…

This is a story about a boy called Flinn and his crew who have to battle the scary captain T-Rex and his merry band of pirate dinosaurs. It is based on a bonkers picture book of the same title which is full of colour, humour and swashbuckling! In directing it for the stage I wanted to make something that entertained children just as much as the adults – a true family show. My vision was a larger than life world where pirate dinosaurs sing and dance and there are discos lurking under the water! Obvious influences are Jurassic Park, Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and the big pirate ones (Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean). There is plenty to creatively plunder (forgive the pirate pun) here! There are certainly elements of horror and farce in there too. Musically a huge range of artists and genres inspired us, from Queen to Disco music, Hans Zimmer to Dubstep!

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

I wanted playful actors who were good at devising. They needed to have excellent comic timing, strong singing voices and puppetry skills – a tall order. They also needed to get on well as they have to spend 4 and a half months together touring the UK. I am thrilled to say I managed to cast a wonderful bunch of silly actors – they have done great work.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I hope they will be humming the tunes and doing impressions of the silly characters in the story. Most of all I’d love the kids to go away with an invigorated spirit of adventure that they can take into their own creative development. Maybe they’ll want to be a dinosaur or write their own story.

Did rehearsals alter your initial thoughts, at all? 

Yes definitely. Children’s picture books are so much fun to adapt as they are led by images and not necessarily words. When we rehearse we stick the images of the book all around the room to gain inspiration. But you have to put your own creative spin on things too – the book serves as an inspiration but we add our own flavours. At the beginning of the Magic Cutlass process the creative team and actors looked at the beats of the story we liked the most and then added a few of our own ideas that felt true to the spirit of the original writing. Once Oliver’s script was ready we worked very collaboratively with the actors to create visual sequences and other comic routines. Much of it was devised by the actors and I so obviously my vision altered during the rehearsals. Our composer wrote some excellent songs that helped highlight particularly memorable moments in the story. We then put the script, the visual sequences and rehearsed songs together and hoped that, through lots of hard graft and honing, the show would feel cohesive. We only really know what kind of show we have once it is in front of the kids. In the first previews we learnt a lot about the show and its impact.  This is usually the time where we add the detail to the performances to make sure they are really well nuanced. Once the first few previews were out of the way the show was officially ‘open’. The adventure had truly began!

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What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

They are some brilliant songs, extremely funny actors and stunning puppets (made by Max Humphries) of all shapes and sizes. If you like dinosaurs, pirates, adventure and laughing this is the show for you! What better way to brighten up your winter!

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

Go and see lots of theatre in order to expand your reference pool. Create a company and make your own work so you can discover what your style is. Tour that work, even if you make no money to begin with. Meet programmers and artistic directors of theatres. Try and work as an assistant director on a large-scale show. Get to know other directors. Surround yourself with creative people. Be nice. Work very hard. Write stories. Dream big….

Thanks for a great interview, Hal!

 

Casualty ‘Shock To The System’ ~ Episode Review

It’s F1, Dr Sebastian Grayling’s (Rik Makarem) first day on rotation at Holby City Hospital and he’s going to be supervised by Dr Keogh (Will Beck), an ego has certainly been thrown into the mix in the form of Sebastian! The junior doctor does not get off to a great start when he collides with Dervla, Dylan’s beloved dog.

This encounter sets off a frantic search by Dylan and his able assistant, Noel (Tony Marshall), and plays on Sebastian’s mind for most of the shift, too. Of course, the altercation with his boss’s dog isn’t the only misdemeanour from the new kid on the block. One of the central storylines involves an elderly mother who has requested a DNAR be placed on her file and her daughter (played by Shobna Gulati) is not ready to let her go, yet. When the inevitable happens, and the more senior staff are absent from the room, Sebastian foolishly takes matters into his own hands and resuscitates the patient.  You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Dylan, Sebastian! Having done that, Elle (Jaye Griffiths) suspends his rotation, and it looks like the disgraced F1 has a lot of making up to do to be back in favour and in a job! How best to go about getting back in Dylan’s good books? Maybe get on the good side of his dog?

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Dylan temporarily loses his dog and gains a new sparring partner

I think that Sebastian is going to be a fantastic addition to the regular cast, he had an ideal first storyline to make his mark with and his ego will bring another edge to the team. It’s also another sparring partner for Dylan, which is never a bad thing in my opinion!

The other storyline which has continued to run and carries on nicely through this episode, is the to-ing and fro-ing between Alicia (Chelsea Halfpenny) and Cal (Richard Winsor) which looks set to become a more permanent fixture after the nature of their relationship comes to a head. This is helped along by female attention directed at Cal by a patient’s other half. In his case, the patient being Andrew Paul from The Bill, I’m sure I wasn’t on my own in championing this guest appearance. His ex-colleague, Trudie Goodwin, is set to appear in the next episode, and she has also played Rik Makarem’s mum in Emmerdale, so it’s reunions ahoy!

Next week sees the potential romance between Duffy and Charlie begin to hot up, so I’m looking forward to reviewing that one!

Spotlight On… Malvern Panto ~ Sleeping Beauty Star, Chris Pizzey

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

Chris Pizzey is abandoning Basil Brush (one of his regular colleagues) for the pantomime season and joining the gang in Sleeping Beauty at Malvern Theatres, he’s playing Silly Billy and directing the show! I caught up with Mr Pizzey to find out all about this year’s extravaganza.

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The cast are getting ready to entertain you at Malvern Theatres

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Chris, is it gong to be your first time in Malvern?

No, it’s not, I am returning as three years ago I directed Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, here.

This year you’re playing Silly Billy?

Yes, lots more silliness and magic and all sorts!

Have you played that type of character before?

Yes, I do a lot of that kind of thing and I enjoy it, it’s a good comedy part to play.

Basil’s (Basil Brush, one of Chris’s side-kicks) not joining you this year?

Basil’s not joining me for this one but that’s fine, we’ve been together all summer on tour.

What differences do you find between working in a pantomime and appearing in shows such as The Basil Brush Show?

There are differences as a performer, I think many people can look at panto and think it’s just a bit of silliness but it’s not at all. If you get it right you’ve got a fantastic story where you are gripping the kids, maybe for the first time in their life. So you’ve got the truth of the story which is the essence and everything’s got to hang off that. Then you bring into the mix all of the comedy and magic, all the big dance numbers. I want our dance numbers to be West End standard, they’ve got to be as good as we can make them. Too many people think “it’s just panto”. There’s lots of fantastic visual effects as well. So, panto isn’t the same sort of thing as we do with Basil Brush, Basil is real Vaudeville, slapstick for the kids, whereas panto has got the truth, the love and the magic of Christmas, it’s also got the fun and mayhem all bundled into one.

What do you think of the heckling that goes with the territory?

Oh, well you always get hecklers but I love that, I say bring it on! There’s nothing more that I like than going off at a tangent, getting the spotlight up and saying “OK, let’s have a chat!”. I think that’s another reason why people love panto, every show is different and you don’t know what you’re going to get back, you’ve got to be ready to ride the wave, it’s all fun and games.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to come and see Sleeping Beauty?

You must come and see Sleeping Beauty because it’s got all of the tradition you’d expect from a panto and we’ve got some serious special effects. Especially as we build towards the crescendo in act two we’ve got some fantastic special effects that I think are going to set us apart this year. It’s going to be a real moment for the kids, I know what’s going to happen and I know they’re going to be saying “woah!”. We’ve got a great fight scene which it’s worth coming to see the panto for, alone! Plus it will be a jam packed show with fun and mayhem.

Thanks to Chris for his time and I look forward to heckling him in December!  

 

An Evening Of Dirty Dancing: The Tribute Show

An Evening Of Dirty Dancing: The Tribute Show is touring the UK and you can find more details, here: http://www.aneveningofdirtydancing.com/An_Evening_of_Dirty_Dancing/An_Evening_of_Dirty_Dancing.html

Star Rating: *****

dirty-dancing-2016

What more could you want when the nights are drawing in? A Dirty Dancing extravaganza which has you grinning from ear to ear, singing along and dancing in the aisles might do it! I certainly had tremendous fun at New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham on Thursday 27 October.

This is a tribute show, so in no way affiliated with the Dirty Dancing tour, because it’s a tribute show the atmosphere is instantly more relaxed and as an audience, I felt that we collectively connected with the cast. We were led through the famous hits which were all included in the popular 80’s film, and it was a good job we were encouraged to sing along, because you couldn’t not! Each toe tapping number was performed by the extraordinarily talented vocalists, stunning choreography and accompanied by the smiling faces of the tight-knit cast.

Amanda Coutts and Julian Essex-Spurrier were exceptional as lead vocalists, Coutts’ west-end background shone through as her skills as an actress were as apparent and honed as her other skills, a triple threat if ever I saw one. Spurrier was a good match for the late Swayze, whether deliberate or not and has a velvet tone to his singing voice which lent itself to the musical numbers, perfectly. Victoria Rachel McCabe was a strong member of the cast and her vocals were beautiful, You Don’t Own Me was a particular highlight. Gemma Buckingham is obviously a born dancer, she moved seamlessly through every dance number and has a very engaging style. Emily Rose Taylor showed equal ability and agility as a dancer and was a notable member of the cast. Nicolas Collier gave a solid performance and I enjoyed his vocal talent as much as his dancing. Michael Nelson appears to be another triple threat, I will always remember his take on La Bamba and his natural comedy was an asset, indeed. Stuart Rose towered above the rest in height and was quite a presence on stage, he and Buckingham made a formidable dancing partnership.

I think it’s fair (and cheesy) to say that I certainly had the time of my life, singing along to Cry To Me, Hey Baby and Hungry Eyes among other much loved songs. I’d watch this show again and again, I highly recommend it to anyone, you don’t have to have watched Dirty Dancing to enjoy this.

 

 

Spotlight On… Star of Dead Sheep, Steve Nallon

Dead Sheep is currently touring the UK, for more information and to book tickets, visit this link: http://www.deadsheepontour.co.uk/

Steve Nallon is well known as the voice of Margaret Thatcher from Spitting Image, recently he has re-visited that role and plays the Iron Lady herself in Jonathan Maitland’s play, Dead Sheep. I caught up with Steve to find out how he discovered that he can impersonate the ex Prime Minister and to see why everyone should be going to see the production.

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Steve as the lady herself, with Paul Bradley as Geoffrey Howe.

How does it feel to be revisiting the role of Margaret Thatcher having originated ‘character’ in Spitting Image?

I loved working on SPITTING IMAGE but that voice was a caricature. An exaggeration of the real thing and overtly satirical. In DEAD SHEEP the challenge is to keep it real.

When did you first realise that you could impersonate the Iron Lady?

1975. Thatcher had become Tory leader and Mike Yarwood had a go at doing her but he just couldn’t get her. I had a go and found I could. I’ve never really understood why.

Do you feel that your command of her voice and mannerisms has changed?

Yes, her voice changed a lot. In the early days it was at a higher pitch and more posh. In the 80s she brought it down and it became less ‘alto’ and more ‘tenor’. Like all politicians she loosened her RP tone and tried to make it more ‘of the people’. After she left office in the 90s she had problems with her teeth and developed a slight whistle not unlike the one Tony Benn had!

Tell me about Dead Sheep and what your initial reaction was to the script.

I thought there were too many characters and too much written exposition that was supposed to be projected as images onto the set. I suggested to the writer Jonathan Maitland that he create a Chorus of three actors to play all the characters other than Geoffrey, Elspeth and Margaret. I also suggested the written exposition could be incorporated into the dialogue of the Chorus.

What do you think the audience will take away with them from the piece?

Inside knowledge. The play is a ‘backstage’ drama in away. Jonathan researched it thoroughly and you really are a fly on the wall to those events.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

It’s funny! That’s the biggest reaction we get every night chatting afterwards to audience members. They never expected it to be so humorous.

Finally, what are you memories of the period of time that is covered in the play?

I remember being exceptionally busy but because of the act I did (taking spontaneous questions from the audience with no advance knowledge) I had to keep up with events. Like most people of a certain age I remember Geoffrey’s speech in the House of Commons but I was a political geek and I even recall Geoffrey’s Sunday afternoon interview on WEEKEND WORLD with Brian Walden!

Huge thanks to Steve for his time, I thoroughly enjoyed the production!

Vue Unveils UK’s Scariest Horror Villains

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

LONDON, 27TH OCT: The faces of the nation’s scariest horror villains from the big screen have, quite literally, been unveiled by Vue Entertainment to celebrate Halloween. The UK voted Hannibal Lecter as their most feared villain, followed closely by Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddie Kruger. In third place was Chucky from Child’s Play, fourth was Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Leatherface, with the Shining’s Jack Torrence coming in fifth place.

The top five scariest villains identified in the poll have now been turned into realistic 3D Jack-o-Lanterns by artist Jacqui Kelly, as part of a ghoulish evening display at Vue Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush. Jacqui spent more than five days carving each detail into real pumpkins. Each will be on display for five days until the 31st October.

Visitors to Vue Nationwide on Monday the 31st October will be able to take advantage of a special screening of 2016’s Blair Witch, as part of the “Last Chance to See” programme. The programme, which runs every Monday, gives cinema-goers two tickets to a selected film plus two popcorns for just £12. In addition, fans of horror classics, such as the Shining, can create their own screening at Vue cinemas by visiting ourscreen.com.

John Howard, General Manager for Vue Westfield London commented: “We’re delighted to be able to add a touch of terror to Halloween this year for cinema-goers. We are constantly looking for ways to bring our customers a little something extra, and look forward to seeing the public’s reaction to seeing their most revered horror villains brought to life”.

UK’S SCARIEST HORROR VILLAINS
1.      Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal

2.      Freddie Kruger, Nightmare on Elm Street

3.      Chucky, Child’s Play

4.      Leatherface, Texas Chain Saw Massacre

5.      Jack Torrence,  The Shining

 

*Vue Entertainment surveyed 2,000 respondents

Spotlight On… Accidental Collective, Writers and Directors of Here’s Hoping

Ovalhouse and Accidental Collective present

Here’s Hoping by Accidental Collective

An intimate collage of hopeful stories for these dark times, from Leningrad in 1942 to current day Aleppo, from Obama to Enya.

Wed 26 Oct – Sat 29 Oct, 7:30pm

You can buy your tickets here: http://www.ovalhouse.com/

Accidental Collective wrote and directed this piece and they chatted to Break A Leg about the piece:

Tell me about the piece and your vision for Here’s Hoping…

Times are tough and news is grim. We were in need of some hope, so we thought we should make a show about it. From Leningrad in 1942 to modern day Aleppo, from Obama to Enya, ‘Here’s Hoping’ is an intimate collage of hopeful stories for these dark times. Rather than offering black and white solutions, it asks questions and plays with the imagination in an attempt to find a way forward. Though the ideas we are exploring are big and complex, the show is quite simple: we are being ourselves, we tell stories, and we interact with the audience. ‘Here’s Hoping’ isn’t grand theatre, but a small, personal and heartfelt call to arms. It’s about determination and resilience, about not giving up, about keeping going despite the odds.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

‘Here’s Hoping’ offers a different perspective, literally giving audiences a different view of the theatre. That means that the show responds to the quirks and features of each venue. It expands and shrinks as necessary. We last performed it at Theatre Royal Margate, which is an old-fashioned theatre (with a proscenium arch, balconies and plush red seats). So for Ovalhouse we have adapted and moved things around to better fit into this space. One of the great things about a black box studio is that there is a more intimate relationship with the audience, which really suits the performance.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

We want the audience to have a different experience to the usual theatre show, where they passively sit in the dark. We want them to have a sense of coming together, of being present here and now, with us and with each other. We have found that hope is not an idea that people think about or confront very often. It is usually something very private that happens kind of at the back of your head. So with the show we want to give audiences the time and space to mull it over with us. That sounds very serious, but it’s also a quite playful show!

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

At first we thought this would be a show about the triumph of hope. We wanted it to lift people up, to make their hearts sing. But the more we delved into the process and asked questions about hope, the more we realised that things are not as simple as that. Things developed for us when we read Rebecca Solnit’s wonderfully inspiring book “Hope in the Dark”. In it she argues that hope is not a fix-all solution, and that it can only be a first step – towards action! Taking all those things on board meant that the show became more nuanced.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

We could all do with some hope. The show deals with some big questions but from a very human angle. It’s entertaining, but it also deals with something we are all thinking about, especially now. So it is a heart-warming show that everyone will be able to connect with.

Finally, any advice for budding directors/writers?

Keep going! Whilst we aren’t traditional writers or directors, and didn’t come to performance through those routes, we do believe that perseverance is vital to a career in the arts. And not caring about money. You need to adjust your ideas about success, there are no promotions like in ‘normal jobs’. Ultimately there is no one single route to making work in the arts world – you have find your own way. Listen to all the advice you get and then, put it to one side and decide what is going to work for yourself. First and foremost, be a pleasant human being, and create things that make you feel satisfied and happy.

Break A Leg, guys, the show sounds great!

 

Spotlight On… Writer of The Doppel Gang, Dominic Hedges

The Doppel Gang

 Tristan Bates Theatre, 1a Tower Street, London WC2H 9NP

Tuesday 17th January– Saturday 11th February 2017

Tickets are available via the theatre: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/

dominic-hedges

Dominic told Break A Leg all about the piece and his inspiration for it:

Tell me about The Doppel Gang and your inspiration for it

The Doppel Gang is set in a failing theatre, in the last few years of the war, and follows a crap double act dodging conscription.  Tommy wants to earn enough from the show to pay his debts and leg it, whilst Cyril dreams of being as successful as Groucho himself.  Events conspire toward a highly illegal but highly lucrative ‘Marx Bros.’ performance which could make them rich forever.

My father is a very funny man and brought me up on classic British comedy.   We could easily hold a conversation made entirely of Fawlty Towers, Alan Partridge et al references.  I’ve not written much comedy before so my starting point was to try and write something that would make him laugh.  I loved the idea of pitting us up against our American cousins.  Groucho Marx’s quick putdowns vs Eric Morecambe’s pained looks to camera.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

No!  I felt like my comedy heroes were watching me and telling me I wasn’t funny enough! I spent loads of time taking out jokes, putting jokes back in, rewording, rephrasing etc… I’d watch hours and hours of shows, both British and American, to try and channel that tone, rather than just rip it off.  But it’s all important. I guess at some point I eventually began to canter with the story and the characters started writing themselves.   I could write it for another ten years and not be totally happy with it.

Is it translating well from page to stage?

The rural tour the guys did was brilliant.  I saw it a few times and it was getting tighter and tighter.  There’s a lot of physical comedy in it and the cast really own their performances. The play messes around a lot with action off and on stage, in the wings, in the greenroom, there’s a lot of whispers and wonderings of who can hear what when.  Terence Mann (the director) is visionary and the things he can do on stage are fantastic, he has really brought all of it to life.  I can’t wait to see it again.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

If they come away thinking they’ve heard even an echo of Marx Brothers wit or are reminded just a bit of some of the British comedy greats of old, I’ll consider it a job well done.  If people went in not knowing or liking the Marx Brothers and come out searching stuff on YouTube, that’d be amazing.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

What?!  It’s me who’s the budding writer!  My main words of advice would be to find people who you love, call yourself a group of writers (which you are), meet together, eat together and share your work together.  Nothing is more uninspiring than a word document.

Thanks for the interview, Dominic, I hope to watch this in the New Year!

 

 

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