Three Chairs and a Hat are part of [email protected]’s second season, with their two videos HAGS and Three Stages. Three Stages features two poems and a song written about the sudden death of a friend, involving singer Matthew Allison. Both are written by company founder Nia Williams, and so, The Fountain caught up with Nia and Matt to discuss the performances in more depth.

TF: Can you tell us more about Three Stages?

NIA: I wrote the two pieces of verse and the song featured in Three Stages at different times after the sudden death, from sepsis, of my dear friend, and Matt’s Mum, Becca. They weren’t originally meant for public performance—they were just ways of trying to express those different stages of shock, grief and moving on. I wasn’t sure about making them public, but my mind was made up after hearing Matt singing the song. That was something I wanted to share, and I felt that Becca would have wanted that, too.

TF: Matt, what compelled you to be involved?

MATT: All this boils down to my Mum, Becca, she was a singer. From an early age she encouraged my siblings and I to sing, perform and generally be involved in all things musical. Nia was a great friend of Mum’s and the two of them spent many happy hours rehearsing and performing together. I got to know Nia through this and through a musical company called MYCO (Musical Youth Company of Oxford) where Nia often accompanied the group on the piano. Becca passed away very suddenly in 2016 and left a very big hole in many people’s lives. In the years that followed I found an emotional connection with singing which I had never really experienced prior. She won’t boast about it, but Nia is a very talented individual. She wrote “Spring” and asked if I wanted to perform the song, it took me all of two seconds to agree!! Without knowing the story behind the song, it stands as a beautiful piece of music and it was a privilege to get to be involved in Three Stages. 

TF: What is your personal highlight of the show?

NIA: For me, hearing Matt sing my song Spring is definitely a highlight of the online Fringe. Matt has clearly inherited Becca’s singing genes, and hearing how beautifully his voice has developed, and accompanying him (albeit remotely), has been a very moving experience. More generally, the online fringe festival hosted by [email protected] has been a positive highlight during this past strange year. It’s given many of us writers and theatre groups a creative boost and a way of showcasing our work and trying out new things. Our other video contribution in this season, Hags, features two songs from my musical Lady M, loosely inspired by Lady Macbeth. This is written as a stage piece for an actor and a musician, but I decided to use this opportunity to experiment with animation. I’ve always loved drawing and thought I’d have a go at this medium, as a way of taking my theatre writing forward while we’re unable to get into live rehearsals or theatre spaces. So that chance to try something new has been another highlight of the whole process.

TF: What can we look forward to next from you?

NIA: In the immediate future, more animation! I’ve become a bit hooked on it and am planning an animated video version of my musical Lady M, released in short episodes. Even if we’re able to resume rehearsing in person, I plan to continue the animation as a sort of companion piece. If the Edinburgh Fringe is able to run in 2021, Three Chairs and a Hat are also booked in to the Space on the Mile for a week’s run of my musical Melody. And in the meantime we’re working on a project of video monologues and sonnets by Shakespeare’s Women, directed by Wayne T Brown. There are other musicals and theatre projects in the pipeline too—so plenty to keep us busy, while we look forward to theatres re-opening. There’s no substitute for the interaction with a live audience, so we hope to hit the ground running when the time comes!

For more information or to view Three Stages click here