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CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT: Nicholas Hargreaves

What sparked your interest in theatre?

Nick: My initial exposure to musical theatre was through Pure Imagination Theatre Productions, a children’s theatre company run by the incredible Emily Bernoth. They transformed musicals into something enjoyable that sparked my excitement; which lead me to join drama classes and turn in, my passion for theatre. I have such incredibly fond memories of that group, and even began writing my first musical after promising Emily I wouldn’t leave until we had produced a show that written by me. The show I wrote was called 'The Box'; it was rubbish and I never shared it. Although 'Camp Fear' showed improvement, I never followed through with it. Finally, now 'Mayhem in June' is a project that I am genuinely proud of and beyond excited to finally share! 


The fact that you started writing your own musicals at such a young age shows a lot of initiative and creativity. 'Mayhem in June' sounds like an interesting project, and I'm curious to know more about it! How do you decide which projects to pursue, such as your acting role in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ or writing musicals like ‘Mayhem in June’

Nick: Whatever project you do is going to be a huge time commitment, so I don’t do anything unless I’m passionate about at least one aspect of it. With 'Shakespeare in Love', I was drawn to working alongside the other artists involved and the prospect of portraying Shakespeare; which was highly appealing to a Shakespeare nerd like me. For 'Mayhem in June', it has been all about the message. The show is about the toxic effect that conformity can have on young people—an issue close to my heart. Without this meaningful theme, it would have been challenging to justify the extensive time and effort I have invested in this production.


Your dedication-based on the artists involved or the important themes—speaks volumes about your commitment. How do you navigate the creative process when balancing acting and writing?

Nick: There's always a moment in writing or acting when your understanding of a character finally clicks, and you realise who they are. The challenge, however, is that understanding a character doesn't automatically translate into how you portray them, because characters do not exist in the abstract. They evolve with each scene, and in 'Mayhem in June', some characters appear within re-enactments narrated by biased storytellers, adding another layer of complexity. So, when considering all these factors, the most important thing is to assess how each scene contributes to the overall show. For instance, you might grapple with a character's condescending nature, which they conceal. But if the scene sets up a song about their frustration with condescension, you prioritise conveying that theme.


Building on this, could you share some of the influences or inspirations behind 'Mayhem in June'? Are there specific themes or personal experiences that have shaped the story?

Nick: 'Mayhem in June' is the culmination of experiences shared by myself and many people around me over the years. At its core, it serves as a case study of the toxic customs ingrained in high school culture. During my time in high school-as many young people will probably relate-I discovered that 'truth' often takes a back seat to collective beliefs and consensus. It can be confronting when you feel pressured to go along with stories that don't align with your beliefs. Through this show, I aim to illustrate the liberating experience of breaking free from these societal pressures and letting those cares go.


I'm curious about your approach to translating these themes into songs. How do you draw inspiration and translate your ideas into the musical elements of your production?

Nick: In my experience, songs often begin with either a lyric or a piano motif. Throughout writing 'Mayhem in June', I initially started with piano ideas, but recently, I've shifted towards beginning with lyrics. If you're unsure where to start when writing a song, I recommend starting with lyrics. Words provide a natural rhythm with stressed and unstressed syllables, which can then be transformed into a melody.


What advice would you give to those looking to pursue creative projects like you have done or embark on their own theatrical endeavours? How can they navigate the challenges and opportunities you've encountered in your journey?

Nick: I wouldn't claim that I've fully broken into the industry yet, but my best advice for anyone is to simply start, no matter the perceived quality or level. Too often, aspiring writers hesitate to begin because they think they're not yet good enough yet. The thing is, you can study, network, and plan all you want, but the best way to improve is by actively engaging in the craft. If you're interested in acting, audition for numerous shows and volunteer your time. If you're a writer, consider sharing your work with friends and family for feedback.


Now, the biggest problem here is is the substantial time commitment required, and there’s no real solution for that. Currently, I'm juggling 12 to 14-hour days between pre-service teaching and preparing for 'Mayhem in June', which is a good example of poor time management that I would not recommend. Composing music, in particular, can be a time-consuming process; crafting just eight bars of music can sometimes take hours. Nevertheless, if you love what you’re doing, you'll find ways to integrate it into your life, even as a hobby. So keeping that in mind, set yourself (achievable) deadlines: “I will have Act 1 complete by May 1st”. I never actually reach those deadlines, but they can serve as a motivating force to get you started. And I get close! 


Your insights into starting creative projects are incredibly valuable, especially as someone who understands the demands of teaching firsthand. What do you enjoy most about working in the theatre industry and what keeps you motivated to continue creating and performing?

Nick: I don’t believe live performance is a medium that will ever fade away. Especially during the pandemic, we realised that audiences need that in-person connection, and that is something truly special. When you're in the audience and witness something special happening onstage, you're part of that moment. My main motivator to continue making theatre is to create those moments, whether I'm on stage or behind the scenes.


Looking forward, what aspirations or goals do you have? Are there specific projects or collaborations that you hope to pursue in the future?

Nick: I believe I have improved a lot at writing musicals since I started, and I'm committed to further improvement in that regard. I would also love to collaborate with some other artists, as it pushes me out of my comfort zone and fosters new creative perspectives. As for future projects, during Easter weekend, I was fortunate enough to have some theatre friends willing to read through the first draft of my next show, 'Flight!', which explores the stories of notable figures from aviation history through a musical anthology. So keep an eye out for updates on this over the next 12 months!


I want to extend my gratitude to Stage Buzz for this opportunity — thank you so much for doing this interview, it's really greatly appreciated!

Catch the world premiere of 'Mayhem in June' on May 3-4 at the Crete Street Theatre. Secure your tickets now at https://www.trybooking.com/CPSES

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