Writer Jennifer Harrison On Coming-Of-Age Musical Halls

Jennifer Harrison is a writer and lyricist who is working in both the creative and corporate worlds. She has written lyrics for adverts, production music and artists, covering a range of genres including children’s TV, Hip-Hop and more traditional styles. 

Jennifer joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about her work on the musical, Halls. The show follows eight university students over the course of the academic year, exploring the relationships they form, as they learn to live together whilst experiencing student life. Freshers week, exam stress, the cost of student living, and romance, are all key themes in this coming-of age-story. Laugh, and cry, as the flatmates find their feet in a world where their decisions are now entirely their own. 

Hi Jennifer, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to writing and lyricism?

Having always had a passion for theatre and performance, I knew I wanted to work in this industry in some capacity, and so I studied Theatrical Performance at University. Writing was something I almost fell into by accident. Outside of theatre, I’ve always been interested in the notion of storytelling – growing up I was always engrossed in whichever book I was reading at the time. Writing scripts and lyrics seemed to be a way to marry my two passions. 

What was the inspiration behind Halls?

George and I wanted to write a show that was character driven and so we talked about our favourite TV shows where we meet multiple personalities in one place; The Inbetweeners (school), Greys Anatomy (hospital), The Office (work). We were keen to write about something that we had either experienced, or could relate to, and so we landed on University – this is where we’d met. We knew, just from our own individual experiences, what a wide range of people can be thrust together in halls of residence. We both had memories that we felt confident would make for a good show, and that audiences would be able to relate to. 

What can audiences expect from this coming-of-age story?

Audiences can expect to be taken on eight different journeys. What is great about having eight unrelated characters is, not only do they all have their own individual personalities and so respond differently to each situation, but they’ve all also come from different backgrounds. As a result, when we meet them, some of them are already well on their way to adulthood, others are more fresh-faced and just starting to find their feet. 

Audiences can expect lots of fun, upbeat moments as the students experience freshers week, young love, & self-acceptance. They can also expect some more heart-warming and thought provoking moments where we see the struggle that comes with being away from home for the first time, or trying to live up to others expectations of you.

The show has an upbeat, contemporary, pop-rock soundtrack. Can you tell us more about it?

George and I wanted the show to sound like the music we were listening to at University without straying too far from the world of musical theatre. We wanted to create a soundtrack that audiences would listen to beyond the context of the show and contemporary pop-rock seemed to fit the bill.

What appealed to you about having the Turbine Theatre as a venue?

The Turbine theatre is known for supporting new works, and so it’s a really safe space to present a new show in. It’s also in a really fun, up and coming area and we felt this mirrored Halls’ vibe really well.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with George Stroud and Andy Fickman on this project?

Though this is our first musical, George and I have worked together on several projects since we met in University. Generally speaking, George writes the music and I write the words, but we really understand how the other works and are very comfortable making suggestions and changes on what we’ve both come up with. This makes for a really free creative process which has been incredibly beneficial for us and the show.

When Andy Fickman came on board after seeing the “Flat 15B” video we released in lockdown we couldn’t believe our luck. From our very first zoom call, it was clear he was completely on the same wave length as us with regards to his vision for the show. Not only is he an amazing director, but he knows this industry inside and out and so he’s been a great mentor to us in this early stage of our career.

What are your hopes for the show and how it develops?

We would love to see this show run in a West End venue or embark on a UK tour. From the staged readings we’ve done previously, we know the potential audience for the show is quite vast and so we’d love to get it out infront of more people. We also hope to release the soundtrack soon so people can stream the music! 

Halls The Musical is from 7th – 30th July at The Turbine Theatre, Circus West Village, London, SW11 8AB.

Tickets: https://tickets.theturbinetheatre.com/en/buyingflow/tickets/12326/

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