Pirate Kings, Laughter and Medics: Interview with Duncan McGregor and Angus Kitchin

It’s that time of year when the nights are getting colder, and we all need a bit of pirate fun that will shiver our timbers! In this vein, Impact Arts spoke to Duncan McGregor, the director of this year’s annual Medic’s musical who answered our questions with a little help from the Pirate King. 

What made you choose The Pirates of Penzance as this year’s musical?

The last two year’s productions of Medics’ musical have been very serious and dark, but very good, don’t get me wrong. This year however, we wanted to go for something much more upbeat and comic. The Pirates of Penzance is a classic, with a tender love story running alongside comedic scenes and absurd characters, and really seemed to fit what we wanted to do with this year’s production.

You’re billing the show as a ‘modern adaptation’, how is your production different from the original?

Well by and large the characters, the songs and the plot line are entirely the same as the original. But we felt that being written almost 150 years ago it would be good to make the musical more accessible to a modern audience.

For the most part, it’s small changes in the way that certain pieces of dialogue are said, for example taking some of the archaic language, and saying the same things but in a more contemporary form. The humour is all the same, but takes much less deciphering.

What has been your greatest challenge so far in creating the musical?

While we have some wonderful experience on board, I would say that the hardest aspect has been in that some of us are new to a given position. This is the first time that I have ever directed a production, which has meant that a lot of it has been learning on the job. Others in the committee are taking on new organisational roles, and some of the cast are new to musical theatre entirely. Its been a steep learning curve for all of us, but it’s definitely a set of challenges that we have overcome together as a company.

What’s been your most memorable or favourite moment whilst directing/producing the musical?

From the moment that we started auditions, we have had a continuous stream of memorable moments. I can narrow it down to two. The first being the first time that Angus (who plays the Pirate King) and Tom (who plays the Major General) met one another in character. I was left crying with laughter as the two were, whilst in character, trying to one-up each other with how much they could belittle each other. This is a scene that I hope will come across with as much hilarity in show week.

The second was the first time that I saw the pirates dancing to the song “With Cat-like Tread”, a song about being stealthy and quiet in which they jump and crash and bounce across the stage with such tremendous enthusiasm. It’s worth watching the musical purely for this one song!

How have you managed to juggle directing whilst studying and attempting to have a life?

Well, it’s been a significant commitment to make given that all involved with the musical are 4th year medics who are on placements. But the level of commitment shown by the entire cast has been absolutely exceptional, especially in these last few weeks. As we approach show week, the number and intensity of rehearsals has shot up, and the level of commitment from our cast has matched it.

Why should UoN students come and watch your production?

In the words of our Pirate King, Angus Kitchin:

Pirates of Penzance is a hilarious musical, brilliantly adapted by Duncan, which has all you could want: beautiful songs, a gripping storyline and acrobatic dancing choreographed by the talented Tom Hewson.

– Reinvigorate stale relationships by opting for a date night that isn’t just going to a restaurant. We’ll even provide all the talking (and singing) for you, so no awkward silences!

– It’s a better rom-com than The Notebook or P.S I Love You.

– Help to lose weight. Laughter is proven to burn calories and is probably equivalent to that of a spinning class, and you can’t have an ice cream during the interval at spinning. Theatre > Spinning.

– We have spent months rehearsing. This won’t be like a school play, with the kid with glasses picking his nose in the corner and the audience having to politely clap after the girl in pigtails finishes her out of tune, whiney song.

– Be warm. It will be late November and your stingy house mate will have chained themselves to the boiler to protest you turning the heating on, so a couple of hours in Nottingham Arts Theatre will provide you with enough warmth to stick out the winter.

– Save yourself from a night out. You’ll probably have disappointing pres where your mate’s friend from home takes control of the aux lead and thinks everyone has a similar passion for Grime-Techno-Garage and Bass, then you’ll stand in the cold November evening air in your skimpy clothes, reaching a near hypothermic state, before hitting the wall of uncomfortable heat and humidity of Baywatch fuelled perspiration, ruining your nice shoes on piss covered rooms claiming to be the toilets, before being thrown out for a punch up which started after your friend’s attempt at break dancing gets out of control and hits a bouncer, then spending £60 on a soiling charge in the taxi home when most of it went out the window anyway.

I hope this makes things easier.

Sum up your production in three words!

Flamboyant, fanciful and fun.

Amy Wilcockson

Image courtesy of Medic’s Musical 2016 – The Pirates of Penzance.

‘The Pirates of Penzance’ is running at the Nottingham Arts Theatre from 24th-26th November, for more information and to book tickets, see here.

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