Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Kevin McLeod - From The Singing Kettle To Funbox

When the founders of children's music theatre company The Singing
Kettle, Archie Trezise and Cilla Fisher, announced in October that the
much-loved company was set to close following a final tour of
large-scale venues around Scotland, it marked the end of an era that
began an astonishing thirty-two years ago. Before children of all ages
could mutter so much as a 'Spout, handle, lid of metal', however, The
Singing Kettle's final line-up of Kevin McLeod, Anya Scott-Rodgers and
Gary Coupland announced the arrival of a brand new company called
Funbox to keep the spirit of their former employers alive.

“We were having far to much fun doing what we do to stop doing it,”
Funbox co-founder McLeod explains of the decision to carry on beyond
the company he has worked with for the last seventeen years, “so we
decided to start our own company and do something similar. We think the
work that The Singing Kettle has done in terms of keeping the tradition
of Scottish playground songs alive is quite important, and that was the
whole basis for starting the company in the first place. We want to
continue with that, but we also recognise that it's a family show, so
kids can see mummy and daddy being a bit silly as well”

As McLeod suggests, Funbox is a continuum of the work achieved by The
Singing Kettle, with Coupland's involvement going right back to the
founding of the fledgling company which he joined as a teenage
musician. Yet, while the personnel will remain familiar along with at
least one of the characters developed with The Singing Kettle, Funbox
will also be a brand new adventure for all involved.

“The first question I asked Archie when he told us the news was can I
have Bonzo,” McLeod says, referring to the larger than life canine
character played by himself in Singing Kettle shows, “because he's
become an important part of the show. He's naughty and he's cheeky, and
he really appeals to some of the older kids who come along. So we are
in a sense jumping on a moving train fired by a certain momentum which
The Singing Kettle had, but it's more than just a rebrand. It's a brand
new company working from the ground up. I've been writing scripts for
ten years and I'm used to behaving like a seven year old onstage, but
dealing with the business side of things as well now can be quite
scary.”

Theatre for children in Scotland has shifted greatly over the last
thirty years, before which it seemed like companies such as The Singing
Kettle and later The Happy Gang were the only fun in town. The now
globally recognised Imaginate festival of children's theatre changed
the landscape considerably since it was originally set up as the
Scottish Children's Theatre Festival. Since then, Imaginate has brought
some of the best children's theatre companies from across the world to
Scotland, while also nurturing and showcasing Scottish-based artists
such as Shona Reppe and the Catherine Wheels company who can now also
be considered to be world-class.

While Funbox make no claims to be cutting edge, McLeod and co are
looking to engage their young audiences in a thoroughly modern manner.

“The Singing Kettle is quite traditional,” McLeod points out. “Someone
once described the company as panto without the boring bits, and that's
what we're aiming to do with Funbox as well, but we're also keen to
explore the social media side of things as well. We'd like to have
extra filmed content on the Funbox Facebook page, and the apps market
is something we'd like to get into as well. The basis of the company
will always be live performance, but if there's more we can do
afterwards that has a slight educational value, then that's something
we'd like to explore, although we don't want to be preachy. Songs and
silliness is how we like to bill ourselves, and that will always be at
the heart of what Funbox is about.”

While McLeod, Scott-Rodgers and Coupland are currently tour with The
Singing Kettle's final show, Big Christmas Party, the first tour of
Funbox's debut show, Pirates and Princesses, is already lined up for
Spring 2015, with the opening date at the SSEC in Glasgow. Prior to
that, Funbox will announce themselves to the world with a thirty-minute
showcase as part of the forthcoming Celtic Connections 2015 festival in
January, where they will perform on a bill alongside roots band Blazing
Fiddles as part of the festival's series of schools concerts.

“We've been publicising what we're going to be doing with Funbox at the
Singing Kettle shows,” says McLeod, “and Archie's been very much up for
us doing that. He was really pleased that we're doing it. He's been
really supportive across the board, to the extent that when our Funbox
flyers arrived for our first day of The Singing Kettle's Christmas run
in Dundee, Archie said he'd go out front to make sure the ushers were
handing them out.”

Given the length of time the company that spawned them survived, can
McLeod see Funbox still being around in thirty two years?

“I'd like to think that Funbox could continue,” he says. “It's hard
work jumping around onstage when it's just the three of you, but it
does keep you young, and I'd like to think that if Funbox does become a
success, that eventually the cast will change so the company stays
constantly refreshed. The audience for The Singing Kettle has changed
every few years as children have got older and younger children taken
their place, and I'd like to think that we can do the same.”

Funbox will perform at Celtic Connections as part of the schools
concerts at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow on January 15 2015 at 11am.
Funbox's first full length show, Pirates and Princesses, opens at the
SECC, Glasgow on March 1st, and will tour throughout the year.
www.funbox.co.uk

ends


Meet Funbox, The Newest Gang in Town

Funbox was formed after The Singing Kettle announced that the
children's musical theatre company was set to wind up after thirty-two
years.

Funbox consists of three stalwarts if The Singing Kettle, Gary
Coupland, Kevin McLeod and Anya Scott-Rodgers.

Gary Coupland – The musician and composer for the company, Coupland was
one of the founder members of The Singing Kettle and is a leading
traditional music specialist. In 1999 he was given an MBE for services
to children's theatre.

Kevin McLeod – Originally a stage manager, McLeod gradually worked his
way onto the stage more and more, until he joined The Singing Kettle as
a full-time performer in 2002. McLeod is also in charge of Funbox's
naughty dog, Bonzo.

Anya Scott-Rodgers – Having joined The Singing Kettle in 2013,
Scott-Rodgers brings to Funbox a wealth of experience as a performance
and musician with the Baldy Bane Theatre Company and others.


The Herald, December 23rd 2014

ends

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