When I signed up to be involved in this piece of student writing, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; the origin of ‘The Single Lady’ is unlike that of most new musicals, written almost entirely over Zoom and FaceTime, by second-year students Lauren Brewer and Will Geraint Drake. The show’s influences, deeply rooted in R&B musical traditions and LGBTQ+ pop culture, follow in the likes of many modern musicals’ takes on history, such as ‘SIX’ and ‘Hamilton’. Putting on a show during a global pandemic is my no means an easy feat, but it has been one of the best student experiences I’ve been a part of!
So who is ‘The Single Lady’?
As a quick summary of the show, the titular ‘Single Lady’ is Queen Elizabeth I; whilst synonymous with ideas of female power, she existed within a hierarchy built for men, often by relinquishing her own femininity. Probe further into historical accounts of her life and the ideal of her as ‘The Virgin Queen’ is problematised by her extensive relationships with some of her closest advisors, namely Robert Dudley – there is much speculation and conspiracy on the nature of this relationship, as ‘The Single Lady’ heavily implies. It’s a Rom Com with a deeper meaning: boy meets girl, girl happens to be the Queen, girl must weigh up if the boy is really worth losing her head over (in all sorts of ways), whilst the world must decide whose side of the affair it really believes.
Producing a show during a pandemic
Casting began in April for ‘The Single Lady’, amongst ever-changing Covid restrictions – in a normal year, we’d hold drop-in auditions over a few days, however this year we were forced to request self-tapes and Zoom read-throughs for those interested in roles. It’s been fantastic to see across Durham Student Theatre (DST) that actors have not been phased by this unusual format, and the standard of talent was as high as ever. Even rehearsals began purely on Zoom, slowly moving into social distanced runs as restrictions eased. From my perspective as a Producer, it’s been challenging to adjust marketing and publicity standards during Covid, discarding physical posters in favour of social media campaigns; we had a fantastic photoshoot in June to gather publicity photos, but even then we had to social distance in order to follow government guidelines at the time! We were also able to secure a highly-competitive performance slot in the Assembly Rooms, Durham University’s very own theatre, seating up to 175 audience members in a historic venue.
Change of plan, change of venue!
Despite everything being in our favour to premiere in Durham on the 1st July, we were forced to cancel our initial run due to covid cases increasing and reaching our cast and crew. Within two weeks of the show being cancelled, we already had alternative dates and a venue, in none other than London’s Off-West End! Since then, it has been a rush to organise publicity, organise rehearsal spaces and book accommodation.
Lauren has described the show as ‘as much a letter to mine and Will’s relationship and understanding of each other as it is anything else’, and I think this really represents the journey all of us have faced over the past few months. The cast and production team all had to be chosen virtually and rehearsals took place with strict social distancing and mask-wearing – not an easy feat for a musical full of love and lust. Even now, we’re back together rehearsing in Durham, where everything began, before our cast and crew travel to London together on Saturday. The ups and downs have truly affected all of us, but we are so excited to finally share what we’ve been working on with the rest of the world.
‘The Single Lady’ will be premiering at the Drayton Arms Theatre, London SW5 0LJ on Sunday 1st August and running until Monday 2nd August.
Watch the trailer
You can watch the trailer/music video for ‘The Single Lady ‘ on YouTube: https://youtu.be/sNya_CX8LjA
Tickets are available now. For more information and to book online Click here