We are thrilled to announce the 8 incredibly talented and diverse artists who will make up our inaugural MT-Lab. For the next 12 months we’ll meet with these writers fortnightly to share work, talk about musical theatre, and create the beginnings of 4 new British musicals. The year will end with 20-minute excerpt sharings of each of their new projects.
Firdos is a playwright and TV scriptwriter. She has just completed a commission for Talawa Theatre and is currently on the Intro to Continuing Drama Scheme at the BBC. Her work has been seen at the Royal Court, The Bush and the Royal Exchange. Firdos also runs ‘Tales From Within’, which in 2017 will present ‘Sheherazade 2.0’ , a digital and theatrical fusion, a way of opening up the theatre to the young Muslim woman, allowing her to create her own work on and for both the digital and theatrical space, bringing a new audience along with her, into theatre.
Stu is a theatre practitioner and composer from London. As a founder member of TOOT theatre, and has performed in, co-written and composed scores for Ten Out Of Ten (Ovalhouse, UK tour, Ed Fringe), Be Here Now (Shoreditch Town Hall, UK tour) and Focus Group* (Ovalhouse, UK tour). His actor musician / composer credits also include theatre work with Tall Stories’, Dante or Die, Victoria Melody, Look Left Look Right and Fanshen. His song January Roars (lyrics Louise Ainsley) won the Iris Theatre panel award in December 2015, and he was shortlisted for the Old Vic 12 composer scheme in 2016.
As a founding member and songwriter of folk-pop band Left With Pictures Stu has released three albums via Organ Grinder Records, played extensively across the UK, received regular radio play via BBC6 Music, BBC Radio 2 and XFM and been published by Sony Music and EMI.
Stu has also worked for over 10 years in performing arts education; including being a Director with New Wimbledon Theatre’s Young Actor’s Company, a practitioner and Director at The Unicorn Theatre, and an associate Director with Glyndebourne Youth Opera. He has worked internationally with Artis Education training teachers in creativity, and has delivered teacher workshops for The Guardian, Roehampton University and many others.
Nikkola began her training at the age of 11 when she was accepted to study Musical Theatre at Tring Park, School for the Performing Arts. She then went on to further her training as an actress and performer at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts where she graduated with a 1st Class BA(Hons) in Musical Theatre in 2010. It was here that in her Third Year, thanks to a devised project that she well and truly caught the song writing bug! Having always written in private and never showcased her songs to anyone, she felt greatly encouraged to pursue writing more seriously. This devised project ended up being workshopped at Soho Theatre, with Nikkola being co-writer on several of the songs that made the final piece.
Nikkola’s performing credits include: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (UK Tour), Fame (Scandinavian Tour), Dusty (Charing Cross Theatre), Around the World in 80 Days (Taunton Brewhouse Theatre).
Alongside working in Theatre, Nikkola has remained a keen singer/songwriter, gigging around the London contemporary music scene regularly.
David Austin Grey
David is a UK-based pianist, composer and educator. Having studied music at The University of Birmingham and Birmingham Conservatoire (studying with such musicians as Hans Koller, Liam Noble & Mike Williams), David is currently working with his own bands [including the highly praised ensemble ‘Hansu-Tori] and freelancing throughout the UK.
In April 2016, David presented his first full-scale multi-discipline production, (supported by Arts Council England, and in collaboration with Birmingham Royal Ballet, choreographer Kit Holder, Hansu-Tori and Birmingham based illustrator Nick Robertson) entitled ‘Wolves Are People Too‘, a vibrant and unique blend of contemporary jazz, classical and modern ballet, and live on-stage illustration. Continuing the process of cross-arts experimentation and composition is now a major focus of David’s work.
In 2015 David was approached by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Introducing to perform at a live showcase at Birmingham’s CBSO centre, ahead of the BBC Music Awards 2015. This performance was recorded and broadcast on ‘Jazz on 3’.
2014 saw the release of Hansu-Tori’s debut album entitled ‘An Improvised Escape‘. This garnered huge amounts of positive praise and great critical reception, including national radio play (via Jazz FM, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Introducing) – and International, national and regional magazine/newspaper coverage, including a ‘4 star’ review in Jazzwise Magazine and a full-page feature in the Birmingham Post.
In 2013 David was selected for the ‘Artistic Directors Series’ at Band on the Wall, collaborating and performing with the founding members of the Grammy award-winning, high-energy American based group ‘Snarky Puppy’ – namely Michael League, Bill Laurence and Robert ‘Sput’ Searight. Following this, the band Hans Prya was formed: a ’10-piece – genre-hopping’ band that features some of the finest musicians from across the United Kingdom.
Over the last few years David has worked with a number of well respected, and award winning musicians including Soweto Kinch, Michael League, Black Voices, Martin Speake, Stuart McCallum, Bill Laurence, Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, Percy Pursglove, Eliza Shaddad, Chris Mapp, Lluis Mather, Yazz Ahmed, Adam Jackson, Nick Rundle, Gemma Weekes, Rachael Cohen, Michael Fletcher, Chima Anya, Musa Okwonga and New York based artists ‘iLLspokinn’ and Y? (aka. ‘Why G?’).
He has also supported artists including Marcus Miller, Sons of Kemet and Snarky Puppy.
As an educator, writer and leader his previous and current clients include Birmingham Royal Ballet, THSH, Birmingham Conservatoire, Jazzlines, Birmingham Jazz, New Optimists,The University of Birmingham, EC Arts, Nu-Century Arts & Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
As a performer David has appeared at numerous venues and festivals across the country including, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul Festival, Harmonic Festival, LUME Festival, Birmingham Hippodrome, Symphony Hall, Manchester International Jazz Festival, Birmingham Town Hall, The Flyover Show, BASS Festival, Arts Fest UK, and Glasgow International Jazz Festival.
When not making music, David concentrates his energies on photography and martial arts. He has practiced various martial disciplines for over 15 years and teaches Taekwondo in his home city of Birmingham.
Amber Hsu (徐碧莉//xúbìlì)
Amber is a Chinese-born, US-raised, UK-based writer, poet, filmmaker, visual artist, and small press publisher. She has written for and with the BBC, the Royal Court Theatre, Islington Youth Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, and National Theatre Studios. She is currently under commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company to adapt a collection of Ovid’s tales for young audiences and works from Chinese Classics. In 2014, she was also awarded a Film London “London Calling” Award and commissioned to make her first short film: Next Time. In 2013, she conceived of and created Tiny Pencil – an artist-led anthology artzine and press dedicated to the lead arts. She is also the creator of #OnePoundPoems — a live, verse-making endeavour involving a 1936 Remington Portable typewriter, a handful of comrades in verse, and the goodwill of strangers. Once, she also worked in a morgue.
Joe Von Malachowski
Joe’s work has been seen at the Southwark Playhouse, The Old Red Lion, the Bush Theatre, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As a playwright his work includes Laika: A Space Dogyssey, a musical reimagining the story of the first animal sent into orbit as a comi-tragic parable exploring the limits of science and ethics – with singing dogs in space; Let England Shake a portmanteau piece consisting of feminist revisions of English folktales, performed by an all-female cast; The Supermarket Six (also performed by an all-female cast) relocating the Luddite uprisings to a modern-day supermarket, where workers smash the self-service checkout machines that are threatening their job security and occupy the shop floor.
As a lyricist, he was a finalist for the Perfect Pitch New Musical Award 2016.
Most recently he has been working as a dramaturg for the Working Party Theatre Company on their Past, Present and Future project, producing a sound installation comprised of oral histories taken from older residents of the borough of Lewisham, and leading drama workshops on the theme of World War One with local school children.
Joe graduated with an MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2013.
Zara is an award winning, international jazz vocalist and singer-songwriter from London, UK. Zara trained as a performer and vocalist at the BRIT School of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre), BIMM (BMUS Popular Music Performance) and Guildhall School of Music and Drama (MMus Jazz Studies). In 2011 she was signed to BBC Radio 6, DJ Gilles Peterson’s record label, Brownswood Recordings Ltd and has since released 2 albums of original material worldwide to great acclaim. She has travelled the world performing across the UK, Europe, USA, Japan as well as performing as a featured vocalist and backing vocalist with the likes of Gregory Porter, Nicola Conte Band, Hugh Masekela to name a few In 2014 she won a MOBO Award for Best Jazz Artist and won the Jazz FM Award for Vocalist of the Year and Urban Music Award for Best Jazz in 2015.
Shireen is a playwright and theatre-maker. She has worked in London, regionally and internationally, creating work for audiences of all ages. Her plays include: Soon Until Forever (Theatre503, 2013), Same Same (fanSHEN & Ovalhouse 2011), Nameless (Arnolfini Theatre, 2010). Same Same was translated into Italian by the British Council and presented in Puglia, Italy (2012). The play was also shortlisted for the Royal National Theatre Foundation Playwriting Award (formerly the Meyer Whitworth Award), 2013.
Shireen was an Associate Artist at Ovalhouse (2013), playwright-on-attachment at the Royal Court (2010), Firehouse Creative Productions, USA (2011) and Nottle Theatre, South Korea (2011). She is an Associate Artist with fanSHEN Theatre Company. Shireen is the book writer for The Empty Chair – one of the finalists of the Perfect Pitch/Theatre Royal Stratford East Musical Theatre Competition 2016. She also lectures on solo autobiographical performance at London South Bank University.