The Nutcracker - A Chat With Our Terrific Trio!

1 Dec 2022

Once again the dream team of Tom, Lee and Gwyneth have created our Christmas Show. But what's the secret to their success? We found out! 

A chat with Tom Morris 

What is your job on The Nutcracker? 

Writer, which means writing the dialogue and overseeing the story. But the really exciting bit is watching Gwyneth growing bits of the story into songs. It’s like magic.

When did you first start working on it? What is the very first thing you do?

I started by writing a story structure and talking a lot to Gwyneth, Lee and Tom ( Rogers) about the story we are trying to tell. What should its themes be? What is exciting about this story to us? Once they were happy with the direction of travel, I wrote a draft which we got the cast (or some of them) to read through and respond to. It’s been an ongoing creative dialogue ever since.

What’s the secret to your success working together?

It's that we all do very different things. Lee is a master craftsman and a weaver of collaborations. Gwyn is a magician who turns straw into gold. So my job is to make sure we've got the right kind of straw and that the story is funny and interesting. 

Do you ever disagree? 

Very much so. And that's what is so exciting. The best collaborations are with people who don't see the world in the same way as I do. Because that makes us surprising to each other. It challenges us and we have the space to discover new things. 

How would you describe a Lee/Gwyneth/Tom show in 3 words? 

Full of hope. 

What are the key ingredients every Christmas show needs? 

A genuine invitation to the audience to join in. A warm welcome to audiences of every age and background. A sense of hope and belief. 

Describe the style of the story? 

It's the story of a child whose family are too busy to pay attention to her, and what happens when a magical clockmaker arrives in their house with a present that will turn their whole world on its head. It's a strange and dark fairy tale. But not as dark as The Grinning Man. If you were trying to weave it out of middle-ranking 70's children's TV classics, you'd mix it from Zorro, Monkey and Bagpuss. 

What is special about a show at BOV?

That lovely theatre allows audiences and performers to become life-long friends in a heartbeat. It's without a doubt the best room to tell a story in I've ever encountered. 

Whose job is the hardest??! 

Definitely Lee's. 

A Chat with Lee Lyford 

What is your job on The Nutcracker? 

I'm directing it which means I'm responsible for bringing Tom and Gwyneth's gorgeous vision to life on stage. 

When did you first start working on it? What is the very first thing you do?

I think it was last November - The first thing I do is read the original fairy story (by E.T.A. Hoffmann). That was way before we had the script, when we were just chatting about it. I try and get a sense of what the story means for me and what excites me about it. Then I like to take some time to just listen to Tom and Gwyneth's brilliant ideas. 

What's the secret to your success working together? 

I think it's because we all come from slightly different angles and disciplines and bounce off each other. We take each other's ideas and make them into so much more. Tom and Gwyneth are both amazing and I'm consistently blown away by their ideas on the page and in the ear. 

Do you ever disagree?  

Yes. That's good because it means you interrogate an idea thoroughly and it helps you get to the nub of what you're trying to do or say. We don't really argue though. 

How would you describe a Lee/Gwyneth/Tom show in 3 words? 

Musical, magical and meaningful. 

What are the key ingredient's every Christmas show needs? 

I think it has to be an epic and relevant story, have lots of spectacle and oodles of heart. 

Describe what an audience can expect when they sit down to watch? 

A generous, talented ensemble of actors making a story feel like it's appearing before your very eyes for the first time. 

What is special about a show at BOV? 

I've been seeing Christmas shows at Bristol Old Vic for years - It feels like a warm hug and always offers me something surprising. 

Whose job is the hardest? 

It's not mine! 

A chat with Gwyneth Herbert 

What is your job on The Nutcracker

I am the Composer and Lyricist... and Musical Director. I have three hats. I love hats.

When did you first start working on it? What is the very first thing you do?

We met up to swap ideas back in the summer. Then, after Tom had written a sketch in response, I climbed inside the story - first with him, then with Lee and our brilliantly creative cast - to get to know the characters. Their fears, their dreams their language. What they might have to learn. Next, I felt for the rhythm of the piece, sniffing out patterns to feed into the lyrics, bouncing things back and forth with the team. Then it's a case of getting out of the way and letting the songs reveal themselves! That's the magic bit I don't really understand. 

What's the secret to your success working together? 

Having fun, getting vulnerable and being open to discovery. Plus having the best collaborators to play with in the room, including choreographer Laila (she's a total inspiration!) and Cat, our brilliant assistant director. 

Do you ever disagree? 

Yep. Often the magic happens in that place. Being open to other people's brains, ideas and ways of working allows the work to have a combined voice you wouldn't find anywhere else. 

How would you describe a Lee/ Gwyneth/ Tom show in 3 words? 

Playful. Joyful. Moving. 

What are the key ingredients every Christmas show needs? 

Things to make you think, make you laugh, and make you FEEL! 

Describe the style of the music? 

I don't ever really think about "style" when I'm writing, It's a big story-led soup with, I guess, dashes of folk, some wonky time signatures and a whole heap of soul... 

James and Harry, the amazing musicians working alongside me, bring their own delicious stylistic flavours to add to the pot. 

What is special about a show at BOV? 

Ahh...the Bristol Old Vic. It's a beautiful, intimate space that has stories of it's own. The floors creak and the walls speak with the voices of the ghosts of theatre past. And I LOVE Bristol. There are few places in the world that feel like home to me - Bristol, at Christmas, is one. 

Whose job is the hardest? 

I've given this a lot of thought. It has to be Lee's.