Frances talks to Jonty about The Winterreise Project
When did you first come across Schubert’s Winterreise? What made you want to stage it?
I first studied Schubert's Winterreise at university, and have loved/been obsessed with Schubert's music for a very long time. This work feels particularly relevant right now. At a very basic level, Winterreise is about a bad break up and feeling excluded from the world - of no longer having a place in a community and walking away into the ice and snow. When Trump won the election last year, I was overwhelmed by this sense of despair that the world/society I thought I lived in was taken away - that the world was regressing to this really dark place. Schubert's Winterreise suddenly felt really urgent and relevant. Its also a work usually sung by men, and I was always jealous of this, so it felt like a nice act of feminist subversion to claim it for my own voice.
Tell us about the process of rehearsing and creating the work.
I have to admit I've never created a 1-woman show before, so the process has been really different! Our last show Dido and Aeneas: Recomposed, had 5 singers and 4 musicians, and we wanted to strip it all back to something a bit simpler.
Of course, as usual a 1-woman show soon morphed into a 1-woman plus 4 musicians show...
but the musical options this gives us makes this worth it. The show was born out of lots of conversations about how we all felt about seeing this Trump presidency unfold and how Schubert's songs could speak to these frustrations. We also wanted to also evoke the nihilist cabarets of Germany in the 30s, so our incredible Music Director Alex Taylor also weaved in some Bartok and Schoenberg and other musical gems. As the songs are all in German, we've also been creating a script to guide the audience through the experience, so trawling through Trump's twitter account has been a necessary evil.
Your previous show at the Basement, Dido and Aeneas, was pretty amazing, tough act to follow?
Ha! Yes - no pressure! This show will be very different - much darker, and of course, without the promenade, but with the same Unstuck subversion and moments of playfulness.
What has been the most difficult part of the production?
The constant struggle for enough rehearsal time is always there! One of the hardest jobs has been having to cut songs as the show shifts and finds its own structure. All of Schubert's songs are so beautiful and rich, but we can't fit all of them into the show, so conversations about which ones need to go has been brutal.
What reaction are you hoping The Winterreise Project gets?
I hope that the show inspires some salty conversations in the bar afterwards! I also hope that for some, they discover the extraordinary beauty of the some of the music we're sharing.