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Isolation Interviews: Jasmine and Adam (Not Exactly Billington)

Next up on the Isolation Interviews, I have Jasmine and Adam the duo behind the site Not Exactly Billington. Based in Leicester the pair regularly review shows in the Midlands and beyond.

Q - What was the first show that you remember seeing?

Jasmine: I remember going to see a Playdays stage show when I was very young. I suppose the first
big show I saw was Joseph on tour when I was about 8.

Adam: I saw Playdays too! And I believe my Dad took me to see Joseph at De Montfort Hall too,
after I played one of the Brothers in a school production. But earlier than that, my primary school
took us to see Pinocchio in Studio at Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre when I was about 5 – I
remember the space being quite dark which was scary and exciting at the same time. And my
parents took me to see The Chuckle Brothers quite a lot.

Q - What inspired you to get into blogging about theatre?

Jasmine: I’ve always enjoyed the theatre, from going to see shows with my family to
performing in AmDram as a kid. But I suppose the shift to a more analytical approach to my
hobby came when I met Adam. He’d already set up the blog and theatre was one of the
things that brought us together. He got me into seeing more plays – and I suppose I got him
seeing musicals he wouldn’t have otherwise seen! – and following many an exciting post-
show discussion, I found that I wanted to continue to unpick what I’d seen in all it’s glorious,
minute detail. So I took up Adam’s offer to co-write the blog. I was a literature student and
enjoyed writing rambling essays, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to start writing reviews.
Theatre is an ephemeral phenomenon, it’s part of what makes it so addictive and beautiful,
but I think that writing and talking about the productions I’ve seen increases my
appreciation of the art form and prolongs the experience.

Adam: I started Not Exactly Billington in 2012 as a way to record and write about the
theatre I saw. A lot of the earlier posts are more of a journal, and many of them are
backdated. I was a university at the time and probably reading Michael Billington’s book on
post war theatre, and thought the name was whimsical and self-deprecating. A way to
downplay the potentially poor contents. And then I kept seeing more theatre, and wrote
about it, along with the plays I was reading in #ReadaPlayaWeek.

Q - Whose performances/productions have had the biggest impact on you?

Jasmine: The original London production of Les Miserables. It was the show that had been
on my wishlist to see for a very long time having read the novel and listened to the cast
recording on a loop for an age. When I finally saw it (as a 21 st birthday present back in 2012)
it was an overwhelming experience, I couldn’t believe I was finally watching the characters I
loved come to life before me. Another watershed moment for me was seeing Sweeney Todd
with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in 2012. It was the first Sondheim musical I’d seen
live and I was blown away by the wit, drama and campy menace conveyed in the music and
lyrics. The production turned me into a massive Sondheim fan, and still holds one of my
most vivid theatrical memories: Michael Ball’s ‘Epiphany’ brought tears to my eyes from the
sheer power of the moment. As a huge Staunton fan I was in awe of her performance in
Gypsy in 2015. Again, her rendition of ‘Rose’s Turn’ had me in tears and it is (I think) the only
performance I’ve seen that has earned a full house standing-ovation mid-show. More recently I’d say Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance has had a massive impact on me. It’s not
often a brand new play solidifies itself as number one on my favourite plays list! The play
was one of the most emotional, gripping, funny, epic, intimate and well-acted pieces I’ve
seen. I felt I was watching history being made as I sat front row for an early preview on a
two show day at the Young Vic. I wish I could repeat those 7 hours over and over.
Honourable mentions: Ivo Van Hove’s A View From The Bridge introduced me to a new type
of theatre and that bloody finale was a fantastic and memorable tableau; Curious Incident
was the first play I saw in the West End and had me awestruck by the technical wizardry
while never detracting from the emotional heart of the story; Groundhog Day was the feel
good show I’d been waiting for, and it was perfection from the get go. Tim Minchin has all
the wit, lyrical dexterity and pathos of the great masters, and is vastly underrated imo. It’s
another musical that I will never tire of, and is well overdue a London revival.

Adam: David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker in Howard Davies’ revival of All My Sons; Warwick
Evans in the final night of Blood Brothers at the Phoenix; Mark Rylance in Jerusalem.
And as I write this, I’m listening to that transcendent climax of ‘Seeing You’ from Tim
Minchin’s Groundhog Day. We both loved that show so much at the Old Vic that we went
back two days later to see it again.

Q - What is your favourite musical movie?

Jasmine: Cabaret. It’s all about Liza!

Adam: I’m not a huge fan of musical movies. La La Land? Mary Poppins?

Q - What are your favourite show tunes? (You can pick up to 5 songs)

Jasmine: ‘Seeing You’ from Groundhog Day, ‘Being Alive’ from Company, ‘One Day More’
from Les Mis, ‘America’ from West Side Story, ‘Falling Slowly’ from Once.

Adam: ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ from Blood Brothers, most things from Groundhog Day but I’ll
say ‘One Day’ for those lyrics, ‘Wait for Me’ from Hadestown, ‘Me and the Sky’ from Come
From Away, ‘Pretty Women’ from Sweeney Todd.

Q - What are your favourite theatres?

Jasmine: The National – I love just having a wander around there, I don’t even have to be
seeing a show! The Young Vic is one of the best producing houses, I’ve never been
disappointed after seeing one of their productions. It’s a lovely size too, and can so easily be
reconfigured into many different types of space. I’m also really grateful to have Curve as my
local theatre. Again, it’s such a versatile space and recently they’ve really been making a
name for themselves with their in-house productions.

Adam: Well obviously the National is up there. It’s a public space so even if I’m not seeing a
show, I often go in to have a drink, browse in the shop, or use their WiFi.
Curve, of course – we’re so lucky to have such a producing house as impressive (in terms of
the building and its work) as Curve in Leicester.
Others include the beautiful matchbox style auditorium of the Royal in Northampton, the
Crucible in Sheffield, and the Young Vic.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?

Jasmine: I love reading all types of fiction, from high fantasy, to post-modern novellas and
19th Century classics. I also play the piano and love baking. We recently welcomed our little
kitten Monty into our home, so I’m spending lots of time playing with him!

Adam: I read a lot of play texts. I’d like some new hobbies so open to suggestions!

Q - Can you tell us something we might not know about you?

Jasmine: I’ve been a vegetarian all my life. And no, I’ve never felt I’ve been ‘missing out’,

Adam: My standard answer for this question is ‘I can juggle’.

I'd like to thank Jasmine and Adam for their time in answering these questions. If you'd like to visit their website please click here or to follow their Twitter account visit which also has links to their own personal Twitter pages.

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