THEATRE: Director / Tour de Force, Adam Spreadbury-Maher

Written by: Sophie Taylor

This story of La bohème is very much a personal story.

I had the pleasure of chatting with dynamic Artistic Director, Producer and all round man of intrigue, Adam Spreadbury-Maher. In between rehearsals, moving house and having lunch with his Dad, we spoke about his new production of La bohème currently running at The Kings Head Theatre in Islington.

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

Having won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production in 2011, Adam seems an obvious candidate to take on Puccini’s La bohème. But his production is far from obvious.

This is a truthful, more concentrated adaptation personal to it’s director with a dog who’s threatened to take centre stage.

I take it you’ve just come out of rehearsals, how are they going?

“Good thanks, we’re just on lunch now. It’s going really well. We’re looking at Act IV where Lily dies.” *spoiler alert*

Oh no! 

“Oh yes. I’m just sitting out the back of the theatre now, enjoying a bit of sunshine.”

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

By the way I love what you’ve done with the postcode at the end of La bohème. Very nifty. Did you choose the Dalston setting for this adaptation?

“Oh yes, that’s the very clever marketing team. I did yes, it’s part of my story, in terms of these guys getting through their twenties and how tough it is: living in London and dodging all the pitfalls of being a millennial with things like apps, Facebook and co-dependency. Not to mention all the substances that are becoming cheaper and cheaper and more readily available. The parenting models, the baby boomers – it’s like taking a picture of that world and realising we’re part of a big cycle.

It’s not too dissimilar from Puccini’s world, it’s just that it happened before Freud. Puccini had instincts about what the characters were doing with each other, in terms of unhealthy relationships and this picture of love that was unsustainable and destined for failure from the start. It’s interesting to look at it now from a 2016 paradigm, we can give them all these pop psychology terms now.”

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

Do you think it’s gained more significance today as opposed to when it was staged previously?

“Well yes, even just looking at epidemics. Needle use is up for example. You find people progressing from soft drugs, naturally progressing to needles. The stigma attached to needle use is dropping.”

Originally you trained as an opera singer, is that right?

“In Australia yes, originally. I started my own Training Director course at The Kings Head which is a really great contribution to the theatre industry. It costs nothing and people get really practical experience. It’s currently in its first year and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

There are no excuses on the Kings Head stage
North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

So tell me about the cast

“Oh they’re great, it’s really nice to be working on an opera with only four singers because I can work really closely with them. We can look at the drama more intensely and create something together as a team. It’s very fitting for this form of opera where audiences are excited to get really close to the work. There’s nowhere to hide or escape.

There are no excuses on the Kings Head stage, so you’ve got to be there all the time. Everything’s got to work. If you drop it for a second you notice and it’s really hard to pick it back up again.

This cast are working so hard because it’s a new thing for them and they’re loving it. They’re really talented singers.”

it’s a joy for the theatre makers
North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

I heard a tiny preview before and it’s sounding incredible. Is there an interactive element to your audience?

“So rather than looking at the traditional staging of an opera, this is more 2016. They go to the Cat and Mutton in Dalston on Christmas Eve – it’s quiet, not like the original.

Everything’s contained within the Theatre, but we’re using a cello this time with the piano which is creating a new sound world. And we’re just having the two couples, rather than with traditional productions that use a lot of binary characters that you need to set up a large stage.

There’s a play called God of Carnage that Roman Polansky turned into a film called Carnage with Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet. It was when I watched that I thought, I can do this. It’s radical, but reveals so much truth in the work.

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview
I don’t want to spend my life making the Diet Coke version of opera.

When you’re working in opera in these smaller studio spaces there’s a joy for the audience to get up close to it, but there’s also a joy for the theatre makers to be able to assess the work and find it’s true essence, it’s true quality. I think it’s pedestrian and lazy to just say we’re ‘stripping it back’ or ‘condensing it’. It’s not that.”

It sounds like you’re doing the opposite actually

“Well exactly. It’s a process of distillation. And distilling is a good thing, when it’s done with respect and understanding and sensitivity. Which is what I hope we’re doing.

I wouldn’t be interested otherwise, I don’t want to spend my life making the Diet Coke version of opera.”

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

Hey, I couldn’t help but spy a dog in rehearsals. Who’s that!

“We’re still playing with that concept. She’s threatened to be in La bohème for a long time. We’re still looking at the practicalities of it, but it’s been a useful tool in rehearsals for Musette to have crutches and having a lap dog was one of those for an afternoon. That’s my dog, Tickets. She comes with me pretty much everywhere.”

So where do you like to take your lunch breaks?

“I’m currently snatching some lunch at La Divina right now. They’re fantastic and do £5 takeaway pasta. If you work at The Kings Head it’s in your DNA: you’d do a blood test and see La Divina in it. But there’s also Piacha, which is a really great tea shop on Upper Street.

I’m just having a pasta with broccoli and tomato sauce. My dad, who’s visiting from Australia and sitting next to me right now, is having a Niçoise salad.”

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

Oh, say hello from me!

Adam’s Dad: “Hi Sophie!”

How is he? Is he enjoying it in London?

“He’s good, he’s here because he’s chasing the Summer. He’s 70 this year and I’m turning 35 so it’s a special year for us. It’s nice, he’s helping me move into a new flat with my new boyfriend. I’ve been living off grid for the last two and a half years. I was living in an RV for a while and after I sold it a month ago I’ve been living in a tent for the last few weeks.”

What!

“I know, it’s quite funny. I love the lifestyle but I love this new boyfriend more. We’re moving into a flat in Holloway, nice and local, still a bit edgy. This story of La bohème is very much a personal story. I spent some years living in East London and they were quite tough years, I probably left it all a bit late to let go of my youth and my twenties.

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview
It’s very bold and dangerous what we’re doing.

I rung it out completely, took a little while to grow up and these pictures of using substances and using people like a drug – I’ve found it very interesting to assess the opera and investigate the opera in that way. It’s been a joy and it’s coming together so well.

It’s very bold and dangerous what we’re doing. It’s great to have the smaller cast as well because we can stay close knit together and stay on track because it is a departure. It makes so much sense. I’m so happy with how it’s going, which is quite bizarre for me to say in rehearsals! I’m usually a mess, but it’s going well.”

You can tell that you’re really invested in it and that it is something very personal to you

“I’ve had a great joy writing it with Becca who plays Mimi, the one with a heroin problem.

North Four, North London magazine, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, La boheme, Kings Head Theatre, opera, production, interview

We have worked together on previous operas and it was nice to create a partnership because she has the sensitivity of being a singer. Which is really important to get that right in terms of, can this be sung? Does that sound good? Then I’m coming at it from more of a dramaturgical point of view, making sure we can get from A to B and using the appropriate language for where we are. If we ever depart from the original significantly, it’s really nice to have someone to talk to and make sure you’re getting it right. It’s a huge responsibility that we’re all taking very seriously, which is exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.”

I can imagine! I can’t wait to see it soon. Break legs with it all

“Thank you. We say chookas in Australia. Or snap an eyelash.”

And with that, Adam was off to finish his pasta and get back to rehearsals while I went off to google La Divina, Carnage and chookas.

La Bohème is at The Kings Head Theatre, Islington 115 Upper Street, N1 1QN until 8th October. Tickets available here.

North Four, North London magazine, green rooms hotel, arts, culture, review, interiors, design, photography, wood green
Eat & Drink Lifestyle

My First Night at Green Rooms Hotel

Staying in a hotel one mile from where you actually live feels strange enough, but doing it on your own is even stranger. These photos are a visual record of me wandering the lonely corridors of a new boutique hotel between the hours of 10-12pm. I would describe the decor as handmade but not cheap, minimal but not clinical. It has the feeling that money has been spent on the things that matter.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, cheese, fromage, cheese festival, n1, islington, market, festival, food, gouda, edam, brie, camembert, wheel of cheese
Eat & Drink

You Feta Brie-lieve it: Cheese Festival Comes to North London

The rumours are true: a cheese festival exists and it’s coming to North London. This Sunday. Be there or be … cheese-less I suppose. But you’ve gouda get there early:  If you’re as keen as brie and one of the first fifty fromage fondlers to show, you’re in the running for a free bottle of Black Cow’s pure milk vodka. Traders will be setting up stalls along Islington’s Chapel Market: from the Raclette Brothers and Mac to the Future to La Fromagerie and The Cheese Truck.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, dream phone, dream talk, sound art, collaboration, musician, artist, london, phone boxes
Culture Lifestyle

Dream Talk: Sound Art for Your Commute

Dream Talk. It’s like Dream Phone, but not at all. Artist Emma Alonze and musician Andy Becker have joined forces to collaborate on a (possibly prophetic) new sound art project. Londoners are invited to take a moment out of their daily commute, routine or journey and immerse themselves in a narrated collection of dreams. Taking three years worth of forty winks, Alonze has gathered and narrated a chosen few to be set to an ambient soundtrack by Becker.

Read More...
Events

Between the Sheets at the Underbelly Festival

Holy smoke, her nipples are on fire! Somebody pass the woman an extinguisher. Wait, why is she climbing into that giant margarita glass - does she not know it's highly flammable? She's going to need to be doused with a sizable portion of aloe vera gel at this rate, the poor lamb. 

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, events, to do, 100, keeping it 100, hackney arts
Culture Events List

Top Four "Keeping it 💯" Workshops

If there's anything the new moon today has told us, it's that it's time to be our true selves. That's what my horoscope told me today anyway. But what does that mean exactly? It means that if you want to eat honey loops for lunch, you 100% can. It means if you feel like learning how to make a bouquet instead of working on your tax forms, you 100% can. It also means if you want to learn how the deep throat (singing technique) you don't have to explain yourself. You're keeping it .

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, eroc, skateboarding, skater dog, french bulldog, frenchie, skateboard, halfpipe, interview, internet sensation, instagram star, tony hawk, fanbase
Lifestyle

Who is Behind Eroc the Skateboarding Dog?

Our exclusive meeting with Eroc: the Beyonce of the skateboarding dog world. Eroc the french bulldog is making waves. With fans like Tony Hawk, BBC Radio and over 30k followers on Instagram (and counting), Eroc has also become something of an online sensation. His viral status comes and goes, randomly popping up on online social media channels every now and again to generate hundreds of thousands of views and clicks via the likes of Buzzfeed, Time Out and rogue iPhone filmers.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, protest, opinion piece, lifestyle, trump, women's march, brexit, riots, uprising, human rights, march, rally
Lifestyle

Protest is Dead! Long Live Protest!

We all have our own ways of dealing with life when things get shitty. Having a big cry and getting it all out can be incredibly therapeutic, and even more so when we find ourselves repeating the same line over and over through the tears. “He’s a dick!” or “I’m not a bad person!” These little lines of reinforcement help us push through the crappy feeling. Sometimes we might even revert to a hearty little stamp on the floor / kick of some unsuspecting object. It feels surprisingly satisfying when the rage sets in and we feel helpless.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, trio da kali, musicians, live music, gig, stoke newington, the old church, tickets, events
Culture

Contemporary Malian Sounds in Stokey

This Friday sees the release of Malian master musicians, Trio Da Kali’s new album Ladilikan. Fusing rich, expressive vocals with traditional instruments like the balafon and bass ngoni, this is a beautiful mix of ancient Mande culture and contemporary Malian sounds. Luckily for us North Londoners, we have the opportunity to see the trio play live in the rather fitting ethereal surrounds of Stoke Newington Church next month. 

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, sylvanian familes, store, monsell road, finsbury park, toys, toyshop, collectibles, rare, dolls
Lifestyle

On your Doorstep: Inside Sylvanian World

Walking along Monsell Road in Finsbury Park, we spy the charming exterior of a shop looking like something out of a children’s book circa 1932. Beneath a green and white striped awning, a whimsical new world of mini animals awaits. Once inside we stumble about the store in hushed awe, reaching over a book of minuscule carpet samples/ family of miniature otters to tap a tiny bell.

Read More...
North Four, north London magazine, outdoor cinema, pizza, sodo pizzeria, snug, events, refreshments, foodie, picnic
Events

Kids and Big Kids: Pizza, Curry and Open Air Cinema

Whether you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, your friends’ kids or that particularly large man child in your life, you might just have lucked out. Snug are hosting an open air screening of The Incredibles next Saturday evening. There will be tasty sourdough pizzas from Sodo Pizza (Upper Clapton) and ultimate authentic curries from Rice n Spice, Northwold Road.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, vegetarian restaurant, ceremony, veggie, cuisine, risotto, dish
Eat & Drink

Ceremony: A New Take On Veggie Cuisine

Coming soon to a Tufnell Park near you is a whole new vegetable patch of delights / wheat field to run vicariously through. It’s time to get excited for Ceremony: a brand new bar/restaurant serving modern British veggie cuisine. Although the website remains tantalisingly mysterious, you can glean more info from their well stocked insta.

Read More...
Spring Kind, Pit Party, North Four Magazine, Music, North London, London
Culture Eat & Drink Events List

Top 4 Weird Things to do This September

Sound baths, pit parties, fake cheese and nipples, these are a few of our favourite things, said no one ever. Bored of drinking down the pub every evening? Unlikely, but bare with me. Sometimes you just want to let down your hair, shake it off and do something down right odd of an evening... followed by a pint at the pub.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, texlationship, online dating, illustration, iphones, texting, tinder, julia potocnik
Lifestyle

Dating North London: IRL vs Textlationship

It’s been a few months since the last instalment of Online vs Offline. I deleted Bumble, Happn and Tinder, flirted with the idea of match.com, went to a friend’s wedding, heard the vicar call my name instead of the Bride’s and reflected briefly on the crushing inevitability of my own spinsterhood before realising everyone was laughing in the pews and I should probably join them.

Read More...
north four magazine, north london, stroud green, cheese
Eat & Drink Events

Stroud Green Market Opens This Sunday!

Gluten-free cake consumers, vegan cheese enthusiasts, craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of pies and drinkers of tea; your time is now. Buy food of a quality & variety you can’t easily find in the shops, from organic meat to vegan cheese, fish caught that morning to pickles which have been fermenting for months, at Stroud Green market.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, the finsbury, finsbury park, n4, music venue, gigs, folk
Events

Free Cake and Gin Soaked Folk Pop

Who’s up for free entry, free cake and free folk (except for a jaunty little hat that is passed around for donations)? Get down to The Finsbury this Wednesday eve for a little mid week hootenanny and celebrate some of the best in new live music from the ‘acoustic, singer-songwriter & indie-folk scene’. Host with the most, Zoe Konez (“Ridiculously talented, Konez handles her guitar like she was born with it” - For Folk's Sake) will be deftly introducing each act from gin soaked folk popster herself, Penniless Cove to German indie band, Kalon.

Read More...
Lifestyle

Lamps, Records, Frenchies: The Big London Flea

What if you could mix the joys of your local Sunday car boot and all it’s dog perving potential with your favourite vintage clothes shops and high end antique markets? Within the sparkling depths of Dalson’s former ABC cinema, you’ll find The Big London Flea: London’s largest indoor vintage market.

Read More...