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, kings cross remix, good times, london clubbing, theatre, play, review, night life
Culture

Theatre of Changing Spaces: Kings Cross in the '80s

“Only last night I found myself lost / by the station called King's Cross. / Dead and wounded on either side / you know it's only a matter of time.” [Pet Shop Boys - Kings Cross] It’s the night after the play and I’m standing at the bar of ‘The Big Chill House’ on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross. It’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ (#TBT) and happy hour is definitely over.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, laura bird, ceramics, pottery, glaze, figures, planters, candles, artist
Culture

Local Creatives: Laura Bird Ceramics

Ceramics with charisma. Local pottery genius, Laura Bird has of course graced the digital pages of It’s Nice That, sold out in Anthropologie* and taken her seat at many a London ceramics stall since just recently starting her career in ceramics. It’s no surprise she is well loved: her unique and gentle humour exudes from every jar, planter and candlestick holder, adorned with cheeky expressions and impish grins.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, walnut cafe and dining, restaurant, cuisine, launch, stroud green, finsbury park
Eat & Drink

Fresh Comfort Food: Walnut Cafe and Dining

Having worked in hospitality with a keen artist’s eye, the Arts Building knew Emma was perfect to take over the space. They were after a morning to night eatery for the neighbourhood, one for local residents and workers alike. Knowing the street’s reputation as a bit of a foodie strip, the menu had to be up to scratch for it’s discerning super-taster of a community. Yes, we’re a hungry bunch in Stroud Green.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, supper club, twin peaks, cuisine, dining, olivia potts, kate young, food writers, chefs, twin peaks, agent cooper
Events

Twin Peaks Supper Club, North London

At the time of writing this the menu has just been released for Food by Feast’s new supper club. I imagine, however, that by the time you read this every dining space will be swiftly filled. If you aren’t acquainted with the duo yet (tsk), they’re the genius collaboration of Cordon Bleu chef and food writer Olivia Potts and Guardian food writer and cook, Kate Young. Having successfully completed the likes of a Gilmore Girls supper club to rapturous applause and smacking lips recently, the latest menu experience is Twin Peaks inspired and looks equally witty and delectable.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, sound bath, gong bath experience, healing, stoke newington, event, meditation,
Lifestyle

Get Your Shaman On: Gong Bath in Stokey

Sound healing in Stoke Newington. This Thursday 18th May, The Mystery School of Sound are running a de-stress gong bath experience in Stoke Newington Ramadan Mosque. Alongside guided meditation, healing process and gong performace, you’ll get a mini intro to healing traditions of the druids and hermetic teaching.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, cannes film festival, the artist, screening, film, the rose and crown, pub, Patron pop up cinema
Culture

Pop Up Cinema: Celebrate Cannes in Kentish Town

Patron Cave a Manger’s pop up cinema are shacking up at The Rose and Crown in Kentish Town to screen The Artist. Soak up the atmoshpere of the Festival du Cannes with swanky popcorn and elegant cocktails. Get red carpet ready for this special screening of The Artist - the ridiculously popular award winning silent French film that everyone fell in love with.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, arancini brothers, risotto balls, street food, pop up, food stall, stoke newington food market, church street, wrap
Events

Stokey Food Market: Fundraising for the Community

Unfortunately rising rents are affecting community spaces in Stoke Newington and their availability. St Mary’s Centre currently provides a space for projects including the Foodbank, Hackney Migrants centre and the Night Shelter but they're at risk of losing their space. To help raise funds to redevelop the space and increase awareness, they are organising a weekend food market in Stokey. The pop-up food market is a launch event for their huge fundraising drive to rebuild the community rooms attached to St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, kate oates, yoga, instagram, chocolate mousse, raspberry, healthy, recipe, avocado, cacao
Eat & Drink

Eating North London: Healthy Chocolate Breakfast with Kate Oates

Healthy chocolate mousse and sexing up your smoothie with Kate Oates. We have found ourselves a yoga guru in Kate Oates, a healthtastic yogi based in Crouch End. When we met her last year she hinted at a few of her own culinary creations and boy were we intrigued. Asking for an exclusive recipe for you health conscious readers, we received a taste sensation of an idea for chocolate breakfast.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, single cylinders, speed dating, bolt motorbike shop, alternative dating
Lifestyle

Alternative Speed Dating with Single Cylinders

“All My Single Cylinders, All My Single Cylinders”. Two girls, sick to the back teeth of Tindering and Bumbling about the bars of London, decided to create their own speed dating night. Involved in the biker community of East London they have created a special series of nights combining live music, motorbikes and speed dates. Bolt Motorbike Shop of Stoke Newington is their latest venue, providing a more intriguing backdrop for your date night and quashing the usual awkwardness of sparse, brightly lit speed dating scenarios. You can admire the motors, enjoy your free drinks and listen to some live music with some top notch handpicked company.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, proper piirakka, Karelian pasties, pies, pop up, cuisine, finland, Aapo Nieminen
Eat & Drink

Pop Up Proper Piirakka in Finsbury Park

In case you’ve never had a piirakka, (also known as Karelian pasties, pies or pirogs) they’re a delicious Finnish treat that you need to try immediately. Whether savoury or sweet, they’re basically a light pastie made with rye flour and a pretty unique variety of filling options. Meet Aapo Nieminen, a native Finnish local who grew up with piirakka. After getting tired of asking friends and family to bring him these naughty little pasties whenever they visited he came up with a plan. “They are an important part of everyday finish life. One day I thought why not just make them yourself?”

Read More...
Lifestyle

North London Bike Tour: Giro d'North Four

The lycra is optional. Coffee however, isn't. On Friday 197 cyclists descended on Sardinia to compete in the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. For those of you that don't have wardrobes filled with lycra you might never of heard of it but Think Tour d'France but in Italy. Still drawing a blank?

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, cookie dough, cafe, naked dough, old street
Eat & Drink

Millenial Munchers Heaven: Cookie Dough Cafe

Naked Dough have appeared like a pair of beautiful fairy godmothers to lead me to an actual edible cookie dough dance party. Plus they didn’t even tell me what I should wear, they genuinely don’t care. Naked Dough is a new restaurant serving edible cookie dough from tubs, cones and even carry home pots. The ingredients are raw egg free and the flour is heat-treated so you need not worry-like-Edwina-Currie about salmonella and stomach bloat (unless you’re gluten free of course. In which case I’m sorry you’ve stumbled upon this torture page of an article).

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, mint vintage, denim, jeans, launch, party, stoke newington
Events

MINT Vintage, The Denim Edition

Ten years ago MINT Vintage first opened in Covent Garden before moving on to the more creative surrounds of Stoke Newington, pioneering fashion forward vintage. Every piece is hand selected and sourced from all over the world, ensuring every garment is trend driven but timeless and always unique. This May they’ve decided to transform their world in to an “oops we were trying to make corduroy and came up with denim” dreamland*.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick
Lifestyle

Carry On Up the Canal with Secret Adventures

Finding myself wandering around Limehouse Basin craving a pint and perhaps even a slice of pizza, I needed to get home to my local Crate Brewery sharpish (they do the freshest craft beers and have award winning pizzas). But how to get there? Stumbling in to Limehouse Station and towards a huge sign saying CLOSED, I consider walking there instead. A short meander riverwards, I reach the canal and begin to notice a group of people donning chunky waistcoats stretching their arms around. I pause for a second, swaying slightly on the spot, watching this mesmerising circle of humans yielding huge double ended spoons.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, psych, music, gig, nambucca, sike!, Dazy Crown
Culture

‘Not another psych night’ at Nambucca

"Ooh they’re doing a psych night at Moth Club Tina!” "What, again?” It’s a familiar sentence. Fast becoming a buzzword for young musos and Beyond Retro dwellers alike, psych music is no longer just for the suede fringed waistcoat wearing Acid Jazz lovers who curse their parents they weren’t born in 1966. No no. The psych music spectrum has spread it’s bendy wings and shaken off it’s lava lamp skin to embrace a whole host of musical genres. From William Burroughs to Pet Sounds to Thee Oh Sees, the genre’s had a birth, decline and resurgence. Nambucca in Finsbury Park are totally capitalising on this revival with their new monthly night, SIKE! This Thursday 11th May, they’re bringing four different acts who are all covering different elements of the psych scene.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, the good egg, stoke newington, beer and bagels, restaurant, menu
Events

Beer and Bagels at The Good Egg, Stokey

Back in 2014 The Good Egg was hatched, mixing Californian sunshine with Tel Aviv traditions to bring one heck of a menu to Stoke Newington. Food critics, instagrammers and swathes of Stokey baby holders flocked to it’s doors to get stuck in to the Jerusalem breakfast, merguez sausage and indeed eggs washed down with spicy brunch cocktails.

Read More...