Expect 10 decades of in-your-face sex at Hope Theatre’s new show, Hello Again

Tania Azevedo in Hello Again

Tania Azevedo in Hello Again - Credit: Archant

Director Tania Azevedo tells Charlotte Beale why this musical theatre adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde ‘exhausts your libido’.

Islington’s sexual attitudes are under the spotlight this month, with Michael John LaChiusa’s cult musical Hello Again up and running at the Hope Theatre.

“I cannot tell you the amount of Kama Sutras I’ve read for this production”, director Tania Azevedo says. “It exhausts your libido”.

This musical theatre adaptation by Play Pen Productions of Arthur Schnitzler’s explicit 19th-century play, La Ronde tells the story of 10 characters over the 10 decades of the 20th century, each “using sex to search for intimacy and power”.

Hope Theatre Director Matthew Parker was “adamant that something this provocative would have a place in Islington”, Azevedo said.

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“Every orgasm is on the score. Every thrust is on the score. In Britain, I’ve never seen such in-your-face theatre, in its sexual content. I hope Upper St is ready for it, but I don’t know.

“As an audience member you will be, at any given point, 1m away from the sexual action”, Azevedo continues. “It’s the most immersive musical theatre can be.” The cast of five, including Olivier Award-winner Miles Western, remain onstage throughout, including for costume changes.

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Azevedo is convinced theatre has a bigger role to play in empowering women; Play Pen’s version of Hello Again presents female leads “very different to the perfect stereotypical blonde musical theatre actress you’re used to seeing in the West End”.

“This play is about female pleasure as much as it’s about male pleasure - it’s very feminist. The actresses we’ve cast, both of them have completely different body types and we’ve cast them specifically for that reason. We wanted you to see real women who look like real women, who have sex in different ways and who do not shy away from what their orgasm sounds like. It’s breaking quite a lot of taboos, established in the media, of what sex should be.”

What does Azevedo say to those who would rather be tucked up in bed? “Even if you think it’ll make you uncomfortable, it’s an undeniable part of humanity. If it makes you uncomfortable, why?”

Acting out 10 different decades in the same play was a particular design challenge, mainly overcome by LaChiusa writing all the stylistics of each era into the music. Through the time-travelling, Hello Again shows how sexuality is circumscribed by different historical moments; one character is “straight in the 1920s [scene], then in the 1970s, he’s gay. He’s exactly the same character – he’s just been born into different environments.”

Hello Again has fired Azevedo up about the possibilities of well-written, innovative musical theatre. “It seems to me the genre of performing arts that receives the least attention to innovate; there are very few musical theatre companies or venues that really try to push the boundaries of style to the next level. Play Pen Productions wants to be that company.”

Hello Again runs at The Hope Theatre until Nov 7. Visit thehopetheatre.com

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